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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Because the Black Sea turns into a battleground, one Ukrainian farmer doesn’t know the way he’ll promote his grain

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KYIV, Ukraine — Victor Tsvyk harvested 4,800 tons of wheat this month, however after Russia exited a wartime deal that allowed Ukraine to ship grain to the world, he has no thought the place his produce will go. Or how his beloved farm will survive.

Tsvyk, who usually exported as much as 90% of his harvest from the southern port of Odesa, faces a disaster: His yield is 20% increased in contrast with final 12 months, which might have been a boon in instances of peace, however in struggle, exorbitant logistics prices and Russia’s blockage of the ports has made delivery grain too costly for him.

Tsvyk is one in every of hundreds of Ukrainian farmers dealing with the same dilemma.

“It’s too painful to speak about,” the 67-year-old stated when requested how he envisions the longer term.

Final month, Russia pulled out of the deal that the U.N. and Turkey brokered to supply safety for ships carrying Ukrainian grain by means of the Black Sea. Moscow has since stepped up assaults on Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure whereas Ukraine has hit one in every of Russia’s personal ports, main wheat and corn costs to zigzag on world markets.

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Whereas nations worldwide press for a restoration of the grain deal and combating intensifies within the Black Sea, Ukraine’s farmers are left questioning how they may keep in enterprise and supply the food that’s important to individuals in growing nations fighting starvation.

Tsvyk would not know what he’ll do along with his harvest or how he’ll hold paying his 77 staff.

“What might I really feel on this scenario? It’s a nice sorrow for everybody,” he stated.

His huge farm in Shurivka, 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kyiv, produces not solely wheat but in addition nice goat’s cheeses and juices. Goats munch on hay, and staff toil across the clock, turning milk into cheese, kefir and yogurt drinks which are bottled and despatched off to be bought throughout Ukraine.

Whereas 4 of Tsvyk’s staff have left to affix the struggle, those that stay have harvested and saved his wheat and are actually seeding his many acres of land, making ready for the following season.

The tinge of uncertainty hangs heavy. Grain is the farm’s primary supply of revenue, and the now-blocked Odesa port was the important thing gateway to commerce with the world.

Tsvyk’s merchandise went so far as India and poverty-stricken nations in North Africa, he says. Now, with the one different choices being extra pricey street, rail and river routes by means of Europe which have stirred pushback from neighboring nations, his grain will doubtless sit in storage depots, costing him tens of hundreds of {dollars} in losses.

Final 12 months, Tsvyk was left with 1,500 tons of grain he was unable to promote. This 12 months, he’s scared he could not have the ability to promote any.

It means many farmers are merely not planting as a lot: corn and wheat manufacturing in agriculture-dependent Ukraine is down practically 40% this 12 months from prewar ranges, analysts say.

The hovering price to move wheat eroded Tsvyk’s revenue final 12 months. Each step within the provide chain has elevated in value due to the dangers related to the struggle, main some farmers to show to different merchandise, similar to sunflower oil, to squeeze out some revenue.

Oleksandr Sivogorlo, Tsvyk’s trusted agronomist, stated that revenue or no revenue, the land can’t be uncared for.

“There are some restricted routes (for export) by means of the Danube (River), nevertheless it’s very restricted,” Sivogorlo stated. Plus, Russia has focused Ukrainian ports on the Danube, elevating uncertainty about their use.

The farm is conducting barter schemes with suppliers, the place a few of their crop is exchanged for higher fertilizer to provide higher-quality wheat subsequent 12 months, he stated.

Tsvyk additionally will produce totally different merchandise he is aware of he can promote with out incurring exorbitant prices, similar to sunflower and rapeseed oil, and reduce his reliance on grain exports.

“We cowl our losses with these merchandise,” Sivogorlo stated. “And what will likely be with our wheat crops — laborious to say at this level, all of it is dependent upon export.”

These are methods Tsvyk has resorted to in instances of desperation to maintain the farm afloat. However he doesn’t count on to make a revenue — breaking even is one of the best he can hope for.

Even that is higher than different farmers he is aware of who’re dropping cash this 12 months.

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