Along with their brave soldiers, Ukrainian peasants are also at the forefront of another battle – the war on world hunger
Around this time of year, Yaroslav Andrushko usually oversaw sowing on his 1,000-hectare farm in the Vinnytsya region of central Ukraine.
Instead, he swapped his work clothes for military clothes and enlisted in the army a day after Russia invaded his country.
“Once a farmer, always a farmer,” said Andrushko (36), managing director of a small agricultural company. “But circumstances forced us to take up arms.”
He is another example of the resilience shown by so many of his countrymen in protecting their nation’s statehood.
But Andrushko and farmers like him are also defending a core component of the global food supply chain that is increasingly under threat.
Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and is among the top six exporters of wheat, corn, poultry and even honey. The money it makes from farming was $28 billion last year and is now more important than ever because of the war effort. Its products are also more important in a world where record prices are raising food security concerns.
Egypt and Turkey, which depend on Russian and Ukrainian grain, are grappling with skyrocketing inflation.
The government in Cairo is considering raising the price of subsidized bread for the first time in four decades.
Meanwhile, the shortage of sunflower oil in Europe is forcing suppliers to look for alternatives. Supermarkets across the UK are limiting how much cooking oil customers can buy.
This, in turn, drives up vegetable oil prices as far away as India, where street vendors steam food instead of frying it. There is also an increased demand for palm oil, which has been blamed for deforestation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia, itself a major agricultural exporter, is deliberately targeting farmland, planting landmines in fields and destroying equipment and storage facilities. These claims were backed by EU Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, who said the bloc would try to help Ukrainian farmers.
Not only is the country increasingly unable to export as transit routes have been disrupted, but Ukraine must maintain its more limited stocks of produce to ensure its survival.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterated the warnings April 20 after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart who was en route to Washington. “There is a clear goal to create a food crisis on top of the energy crisis and wage an immoral and unjust war against Ukraine itself,” he said.
Russia’s limited withdrawal from Kyiv means farmers can plant in previously occupied areas like Chernihiv, but harvests of some of Ukraine’s key crops could still be halved this year.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of agriculture to Ukraine, nicknamed Europe’s breadbasket for its rich, black, fertile soil ideal for cultivation.
Before the war, agriculture accounted for more than 10 percent of Ukraine’s economy and 40 percent of its export sales. Farmers are exempted from military service to ensure the industry keeps running. But former conscript Andrushko decided to join anyway, confident his workers could continue planting and harvesting.
The war has already destroyed some of the decades of advances Ukraine has made in expanding its agribusiness. Its 2021 wheat harvest was the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades earlier.
Eventually, farmers must rebuild their land and rid it of shellfish and chemical pollution.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned of “potentially catastrophic” environmental impacts.
“You have to restore supply networks, you have to get people back, and you have to get back the necessary capital to restore production,” said Oleg Nivievskyi, an assistant professor at the Kyiv School of Economics. “To get back to previous export levels, I would say it will take two to three years.”
For now, only small amounts of grain and other products are transported by rail after Russia blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and shelled key infrastructure.
Ukraine is asking Europe to provide barges and trucks to keep reduced exports going.
Countries around the world that depend on sunflower oil and animal feed from Ukraine are looking for alternatives. Companies are rushing to replace sunflower oil in recipes ranging from cookies to potato chips.
Farmers are running out of non-GMO animal feed, which usually comes from Ukraine, and the EU is relaxing import regulations to make it easier to import from South America.
Then there is the disruption of food supplies to countries threatened by hunger.
Somalia gets nearly 70 percent of its wheat imports from Ukraine, the rest from Russia, and is now threatened by its worst drought in years.
According to United Nations trade data, Tunisia and Libya also get more than a third of their wheat from Ukraine.
“Countries with low food deficits are always the most vulnerable,” said Laura Wellesley, a senior research fellow at Chatham House in London, during an April 13 presentation on the impact of the conflict.
“But low-income households, all economies around the world, are already experiencing household economic insecurity and food insecurity.”
Prices were already at record highs as the global economy recovered from the pandemic due to high energy prices and logistical problems, and now countries like Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Moldova and Serbia have imposed export restrictions on some foods.
Meanwhile, Russia is still exporting grain to some of its biggest customers, even as shipping costs are skyrocketing and some traders are trying to avoid Russian goods. It may even lead to new business deals.
Israel, which often buys from Ukraine, bought Russian wheat last month, according to Geneva-based crop data company Agflow.
In Europe, farmers used to complain about the cheaper food imports from Ukraine hitting the market. The EU is now delaying regulations aimed at making farming greener, including rolling back planned restrictions on the use of pesticides.
“What is happening in Ukraine will change our entire approach and our vision of the future of agriculture,” EU Commissioner Wojciechowski said on March 17, less than a month after the start of the war. “We must implement policies that guarantee food security.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/alongside-its-brave-soldiers-ukraines-farms-are-also-in-the-front-line-of-another-battle-the-war-on-world-hunger-41583474.html Along with their brave soldiers, Ukrainian peasants are also at the forefront of another battle – the war on world hunger