Today marks exactly one month since the Russian military began its invasion of Ukraine. Not only has it opened a humanitarian can of worms, but a political one as well. Countries around the globe are trying to help the Ukrainians without plunging us into World War III with a country threatening to use any means of victory necessary, even if it means violating treaties in place around the globe.
Agriculture has been keeping a close eye on this situation, not only for the humanitarian concern but also because our livelihoods are being affected by it as well. Ukraine is a big player in the global export of wheat. Russia is a large producer of fertilizers and oil. This situation has its hands deep in our pocketbooks, and we are planning our growing season accordingly.
But let’s go back to the bigger picture. Millions of lives are being destroyed forever in Ukraine. Cities, homes, and lives are being lost. Many have fled, but many have also decided to stay and fight, or they are just unable to get away. When the country depends so much on its agricultural industry, the farmers there know it is up to them to keep the country fed in a time like this.
Nick Gordiichuk is a Ukrainian farmer and Managing director of Agrico Ukraine. He talks about the situation he is in right now. He is currently in the capital of Kyiv. His farm is 600 hectares to the north of the city. His land is currently overrun with Russian soldiers and tanks.
Farmers have been urged to do all they can to plant a crop this year. The government is looking for any opportunity to feed the citizens still in the country and still maintain exports once this conflict is resolved. However, as Gordiichuk states, that isn’t necessarily going to be easy for farmers. Even those who have access to their land and equipment. Access to inputs like fertilizer and fuel is going to be a large obstacle.
For those farmers who can somehow run an operation this year, they also have concerns over obtaining financing. Gordiichuk says that the Ukrainian government and banks are working out ways to try and finance farmers. However, the challenge lies in obtaining that financing for small to medium operations. Gordiichuk says up to 30% of Ukraine’s land cannot be farmed this year.
Even if all this is accomplished and the farmers can grow a crop, the question becomes where to store it. Farmers are still holding their products because they were looking at the advantages of marketing. Now they have nowhere to move the old crop.
Despite all this Gordiichuk says that farmers are working as they can until they run out of resources, or they must evacuate.
Just like with the U.S., Ukrainian farmers will do all they can to help their fellow citizens in a time of need. Of course, in the United States, we aren’t trying to do this with bombs going off around us. Gordiichuk says efforts have been united by farm organizations and unions to do all they can to feed their countrymen.
Gordiichuk adds that Russians have already stolen and exported over 5,000 tons of agricultural products out of Ukraine. Obviously moving grains and food in storage is not something that can be done instantly. For Ukrainian farmers, it proves almost impossible to move products away from the Russians, because it isn’t easy to find trucks and drivers who are willing to risk their lives or fuel to move the trucks.
Farmers around the world understand the drive to support your country and feed your people. They also want to help anybody in need. I asked Gordiichuk what producers in America can do to help. He said it comes down to two main things: First donate money to a reputable charity that is providing relief for Ukrainians during this conflict invasion. (At no time during our discussion did Gordiichuk refer to this as anything other than an invasion.) He also called on people around the world to urge their governments to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. He said that their armies can win, and are winning, the ground war. They just don’t have control of the skies.
While it sounds simple, a no-fly zone carries significant risks for any country. Putin has come right out and said that any imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be considered an act of war against Russia, and he has said he is more than willing to use every weapon at his disposal. It has become a delicate political situation.
Gordiichuk is thankful for the aid that Ukraine has received from other countries. He says without it, they could not have held out this long. He said that Russia came there expecting a walk through the flowers, and Ukraine has been giving them a fight and will continue to do so.
The full video interview can be found on the front of our homepage, or by going to our YouTube channel.