The Future of Food - 2

Ukraine War Impact on Agriculture

Elaine Shein
By  Elaine Shein , DTN/Progressive Farmer Associate Content Manager
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The Russia-Ukraine war affected food production in Ukraine, but also had an impact on other parts of the world, especially countries that heavily depended on key ag exports from Ukraine. Here's a closer look at the war's impact on farmers and ag businesses in Ukraine, and the efforts to keep food moving to countries who need it most.

OMAHA (DTN) -- The continuing Russia-Ukraine war affects farms and food production within Ukraine, but also influences other parts of the world.

"We were already in a challenging period; even before the invasion of Ukraine, prices were rising for food, fuel and fertilizer," said Rob Bertram, chief scientist at the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Resilience and Food Security.

He said the invasion "really affected the availability of key foods, especially wheat and vegetable oil, sunflower oil, in particular, that were heavily exported out of Ukraine." He added the war is tough on countries heavily dependent on wheat from Ukraine, as well as those who import fertilizer from Russia. Often, these are the lower-income countries of the world.

"Before the war, Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost a quarter of global grain exports. But now Ukraine's once-rolling wheat fields have become battlefields," said Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. representative to the United Nations. The crisis in Ukraine leads to food insecurity with people starving in the world, and this then leads to political and social instability. This endangers us all, she stressed.

In March, 2023, the European Council, published a report on Ukraine called, "Food for the World, What EU Countries are doing to mitigate the impact of Russia's War" (…. In it, the Council explained why Ukraine is so important: "Ukraine plays a massive role in providing food for the world. It's a big country with fertile soil, plenty of rain, long hot summers and enough farm labor -- all of which combine to make it one of the world's biggest producers of crops." The Council added that food exports, especially wheat, "are crucial for some Asian and African countries which are dependent on Ukrainian grain."

The Council stressed, "Maintaining Ukrainian grain flow remains crucial for ensuring global food security. The situation remains fragile and the EU will continue to play its role -- united against Russia and supportive of nations in need."

In the special series "The Future of Food," DTN is looking at food insecurity but also some of the future trends, crops farmers plan to grow, technology they'll use and even new ways to grow their crops and process their animals more efficiently.

In today's story, the second in the series, we look at the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, including insights from Ukrainians themselves that they shared on the one-year anniversary of the invasion by Russia.


Kyiv-based Ukrainian agriculture journalist Iurii Mykhailov said in a late-February essay for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists that infrastructure such as roads, bridges, power transmission lines, dams, irrigation and other facilities are destroyed or damaged. "Many Ukrainian cities and villages ceased to exist."

Mykhailov said 15% of livestock farms and 10% of cows were destroyed. Farms and enterprises have been looted. The Russians stole about 6 million metric tons (mmt) of grain, with the value of the stolen food at about 1 billion euros, he said.

"What the Russians could not take out and steal, they destroyed. About 400,000 bee colonies, 95,000 goats and sheep, 212,000 cattle, 507,000 pigs and almost 11.7 million birds died. In total, farmers and beekeepers lost resources worth more than $360 million. In addition, more than 14,300 hectares (more than 35,300 acres) of perennial plantations were destroyed as a result of hostilities," he said.


Mykhailov added that ag production is significantly decreased, income is down because of closed businesses, and farmers face challenges to sell their products. Recurring power outages affect the ag and food industry, including production, processing, food storage facilities, restaurants, grocery stores and supermarkets. "In rural areas, animal farms may be cut off from electricity for several days or even weeks." Even if food gets to the cities, the power outages close grocery stores. "The estimated losses of Ukrainian agribusiness due to the invasion of Russia is about 50 billion euros."

He went on: "In 2022, Ukraine harvested about 65 mmt of grains and oilseeds, which is 40% less than in 2021 (107 mmt). Lack of working capital, shortages of seeds and blackouts are the main problems that Ukrainian farmers may face during the spring sowing."


Different initiatives have helped to move Ukraine grain.

Ukrainian journalist Laryssa Guk, president of Union of Agrarian Journalists of Ukraine, wrote in her February essay for IFAJ about getting grain out of Ukraine.

"Ukraine launched a globally important humanitarian initiative -- Grain from Ukraine," she said. It was launched in November 2022. "We attract the support from developed countries to buy grain and charter ships in order to supply humanitarian food to the countries, which suffer from the threat of famine most of all. More than 30 countries joined the initiative, donating almost $200 million in total.

"The essence of new humanitarian initiative is very simple. Ukraine plans to send at least 60 ships from Ukrainian ports to the countries most affected by the food crisis and that are in need of urgent aid. These are countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Kenya, Yemen and others. Within the framework of the Grain from Ukraine program, 110,000 (metric tons) of grain have been delivered to Ethiopia and Somalia," Guk explained.

The European Union and United Nations also worked to help get grain out of Ukraine.

According to the European Council, the EU launched "solidarity lanes" in May 2022 to transport food by land to compensate for lost sea routes during the war as Russia blockaded ports. From then until early March 2023, 29 mmt of grain, oilseeds and other ag product were exported.

In July 2022, the UN and Turkey help broker the Black Sea Grain Initiative to safely get grain out of Ukraine ports. As of mid-March 2023, more than 900 ships full of grain and other foodstuffs -- more than 25 million metric tons, according to the United Nations -- were able to leave the three Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. Almost 30% of that was wheat.

"While unblocking the sea export route has helped to address the global food security crisis and lower grain prices, the export backlogs remain significant," the Council said.

"Almost 49% of the cargo was maize, the grain most affected by blockages in Ukrainian granaries at the beginning of the war (75% of the 20 mmt) of grain stored). It had to be moved quickly to make space for wheat from the summer harvest," the Council stated on its website. The Council added more than 65% of wheat exported through the Black Sea Grain Initiative reached developing countries. "Maize is exported almost equally to developed and developing countries."

The Council continued, "The United Nations World Food Program (WFP -- the largest humanitarian organization in the world) has restarted shipping wheat from Black Sea ports. Before the war, the WFP bought half of its grain stock from Ukraine. So far, over 456,000 mt of wheat have left Ukrainian ports en route to Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia and Afghanistan."

In mid-March this year, an agreement was brokered with Russia to extend the Black Sea safe corridor; however, Russia has only agreed to extend it 60 days until mid-May, while the UN, Turkey and Ukraine pursued a longer agreement for 120 days.

The Council has emphasized how food prices changed because of the war: "Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused a significant increase of food prices on global markets. The prices of grains have risen particularly sharply." The different programs -- including the ones to move grain in solidarity lanes and the Black Sea Grain Initiative -- helped curb prices, but prices are still higher than before the invasion, the Council noted.



Guk stressed that Ukrainian farmers want to keep feeding the world.

"Even at war, Ukrainian agriculture continues to work for Ukraine and does not leave the world in trouble. Therefore, one of the key tasks for today is to help Ukrainian farmers to sow their crops," she wrote.

"Although Russia continues to launch missile attacks at our infrastructure, including ports and transport, and continues brutal battles in the regions that are extremely important for the agricultural production, Ukrainian farmers continue to cultivate the fields," Guk said.

She touched on the challenges farmers face. "Now, there are many problems with liquidity, availability of finance, which complicates and slows down the preparation for fieldwork. At the same time, the farmers are strongly intended to work. The farmers will sow on the maximum farming area wherever the security conditions allow. We hope we will be able to overcome difficulties confidently with growing enough grain for domestic consumption and export."

For more perspective on Ukraine:

-- Iurii Mykhailov's full essay on the war and its impact on ag and trade:…

-- Laryssa Guk's full essay on the impact of the war on ag journalism, farming and trade:…


Editor's Note:

This is the second story in "The Future of Food" series.

See "Future of Food - 1," at….

Elaine Shein can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @elaine.shein

Elaine Shein

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