On Oleksandr Peretiatko’s farm in central Ukraine, the harvest is just days away. In normal times, the harvest would be shipped to Black Sea ports for export around the world.
This year, Mr. Peretiatko’s freshly cut grain is instead stuffed into massive polymer silo bags that meander across the 12,000 acres of farmland because it has nowhere else to go.
From a dramatic loss of export earnings to mined fields and exploding machinery, the Russian invasion has taken a massive toll on Ukraine’s agricultural sector.
Now that ports remain closed despite international efforts to reach an agreement, the harvest begins with silos still loaded with last year’s harvest.
Farmers are looking for alternatives to store growing supplies while already worrying about how much they can grow for the 2023 season.
That means Ukraine’s ability to supply the world with much-needed grain may be limited, even if ports reopen and production is expected to be significantly lower this year. Grain quality and yields would also suffer if the crops were left in the fields for longer due to lack of storage.
“Next year we will dream about the problems we are facing now,” said Dmitry Skornyakov, executive director of HarvEast, which farms in eastern and northern Ukraine. “Because next year, believe me, the problems will be much, much worse.”
Ukraine was among the top exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil before the invasion, and the halt in supplies sent shockwaves through global agricultural markets, helping push food prices to record highs and raising concerns about hunger in the country the whole world.
The Ukrainian government expects grain production to fall about 40 percent from 2021 levels after farmers ran out of fertilizers or failed to sow land.
Despite this, it carries a backlog of 20 million tons into the season, which begins next month.
According to the Minister of Agriculture of Ukraine, a fifth of grain silos were damaged or lost on territory occupied by Russian forces. As a result, farmers could be missing 10 to 15 million tons of storage capacity by October.
Some crops are now flowing out of the country by rail, road and river, but the journeys are long and the waits long.
Ukraine’s wheat exports typically peak shortly after harvest, and neighboring EU nations will be struggling with their own crops at the same time, overwhelming logistics.
“It’s long, difficult, expensive and a very big problem,” Mr Skornyakov said.
“In a month we will have the new harvest. And I expect it will only get worse.”
His company was hit by Russian attacks. Of the 127,000 hectares HarvEast farmed before the war, about 80,000 are in occupied territories. Another 9,000 hectares near Kyiv were riddled with mines and half were not cleared in time for planting. A tractor exploded in a field.
On what is still under his control, the wheat and pea harvest is approaching. The company has been using silage bags for ten years and will rely on them more than usual.
Around 20 to 30 percent of the harvest was often sold directly from the field, which is not feasible this season.
Ukraine should have space to store crops like wheat and barley, which are harvested first in the summer, said Petro Melnyk, president of the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club.
The greater scarcity is in the fall for later gathered crops such as corn.
Silo bags, which some farmers like him have been using for several years, will no doubt help.
Still, they won’t absorb all of the excess, and growers also need capacity to clean and dry grain, he said. Also, according to Mr Skornyakov, they cannot be used for some key crops such as sunflowers.
The Grain Union of Ukraine said corn could stay in fields longer, which could affect quality and yields.
Ukraine has asked European partners for help to preserve its next crops.
Mobile storage could increase capacity by 15 million tons, PM said.
Other allies also pledged help, with US President Joe Biden saying he will build temporary silos in neighboring countries like Poland.
Ukrainian agribusiness company IMC has teamed up with other farms to ship in bulk bags from Brazil, managing director Alex Lissitsa said.
The elevators usually empty in June in preparation to replenish supplies with the approaching wheat harvest. This year they will store about 200,000 tons of last year’s corn, a third full.
Without sales starting soon, farmers will have fewer funds to secure seeds and inputs for winter crop plantings, which begin as early as August. Any production cuts could exacerbate tight world supplies for longer.
“This is the beginning of the real global food crisis,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/world/ukraines-farmers-face-harvest-with-storage-facilities-already-stuffed-41768592.html Farmers in Ukraine face harvest with storage facilities already jammed