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Ukraine’s farmers face Russia’s blockade and ordinance in their farms this harvest

Mikolaev Oblast, Ukraine – Only Mikhailov Lyubchenko took home-made vodka to save some of his business.

Lyubchenko, 72, is cultivating wheat and sunflower in the first row of the southern campaign of the Ukraine war. He says he paid Russian troops with Samogon – Munshin – so they could not set fire to his field or steal his equipment during the first weeks of the war in February.

“They were completely drunk,” he says. “They did not steal or destroy anything. The next day our Ukrainian forces pushed them back.”

Months later, Burnt Russian tanks and vehicles are still lined up along the farm road which covers several thousand acres of his land. The red flags shoot above the young sunflower shoots, alerting the farm’s hands to unexploded ordnance. A rocket sits on a tree stump, which looks like it was once a defensive military position.

“I have 1,000 hectares [2,471 acres] Winter wheat and barley, that I do not know to harvest. I’ll probably burn it, “he says.” If I let the combine and the tractors work, the drivers can be blown up because there are still some shells. ”

Ukraine is considered a major bread exporter to Europe and a major exporter of wheat, corn, sunflower and other foods. But Russian warships and Ukrainian mines are blocking shipping lanes through the Black Sea. The United Nations has warned that the blockade will worsen global hunger, leaving Ukrainian farmers in the middle of a local and global crisis – just as the harvest of the year begins.

Negotiations failed to reach a conclusion

Efforts by the United Nations, Turkey and other parties to negotiate with Russia to allow export ships out of Ukrainian waters have so far failed. Moscow offered to help if the West lifted some of its sanctions and cleared its mines around Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine has been excluded from the talks, but a senior Ukrainian official said they would take part soon and hoped the talks would become more serious in July.

Meanwhile, global food prices have reached near record highs in their growth, even as some products, including wheat and corn, have fallen since they reached their peak.

In another record, As many as 323 million people are on the brink of starvation, the Group of Seven Global Economic Leader warned Monday, adding that factors including COVID-19 and climate change have contributed.

The war in Ukraine “dramatically exacerbates the hunger crisis; it disrupts agricultural production, supply chains and trade, pushing world food and fertilizer prices to unprecedented levels for which Russia bears a huge responsibility,” the group said in a statement.

European Union officials have accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon, calling the blockade of Ukraine’s shipping ports a war crime. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Warned about “The risk of a major famine in the world, especially in Africa.”

Exports stopped

Before the war, Ukraine exported 5 million to 6 million tons of food per month – more than 90% of which passed through the Black Sea port. But in May, Ukraine exported only 1.8 million tons.

Mark Nugent, a senior dry bulk analyst at Bremer Shipping Services, said many ships that were supposed to arrive at Ukrainian ports after the Russian invasion had just made a U-turn in the Black Sea.

Last year, Ukraine exported agricultural products worth .8 27.8 billion. It shipped more than 20 million tons of wheat and other cereals – 10% of the world’s total for these products. Ukraine is usually the top producer of sunflower seeds, oil and food, as well as a leading corn exporter.

Before the war, Ukraine exported 5 million to 6 million tons of food per month. But in May it exported only 1.8 million tonnes. About half of it goes by rail to Poland, Romania and Hungary.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the maximum amount of land exports will be about 2.2 million tons per month.

Nowadays, about half of Ukraine’s food shipments go by rail to Poland, Romania and Hungary, and the rest mostly by truck. For farmers, shipping by road is expensive.

“Right now we are preparing our trucks and getting passports for our drivers who do not have them,” said Oleksandr Tatarev, a farmer who produces rapeseed, wheat and barley near Bashtankar, Ukraine.

Farmer Oleksandr Tatarev holds some of his rapeseed which he hopes to export for cooking oil.  If he can’t sell this year’s crop, he will store the seeds in a silo bag on his land.  The night before this photo was taken, Russian shells destroyed one of its storage facilities.

Polina Litivinova / NPR

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NPR

Farmer Oleksandr Tatarev holds some of his rapeseed which he hopes to export for cooking oil. If he can’t sell this year’s crop, he will store the seeds in a silo bag on his land. The night before this photo was taken, Russian shells destroyed one of its storage facilities.

Tatarev spends “about 50%” of the price he earns by barley truck in the southern Ukrainian ports of Izmel and Rennie, he told NPR because the sound of explosions could be heard from a distance.

He says he will test a truck consignment at that port, where they can be loaded onto the Danube river barge, but he has heard that the trucks have waited a few weeks to unload.

About one-third of Tatav’s 8,600 acres are under occupation or shelling. “We pulled the curtain on that field,” he says.

The day before he met with the NPR, one of his farm garages was attacked by a Russian. A shell destroyed one of his four food stores.

Space is running out

When the blockade began, Ukraine already had 23.5 million tons of grain and seed storage, Prime Minister Denis Shamihal said in June. This leaves Ukraine’s storage capacity about one-third full, excluding silos located in Russian-occupied territories.

Some of the remaining 5,000 tonnes of wheat was harvested by Mikhailov Lubchenko last season.  A Russian blockade of the Black Sea prevented him from selling the rest of last year.

Peter Granitz / NPR

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NPR

Some of the remaining 5,000 tonnes of wheat was harvested by Mikhailov Lubchenko last season. A Russian blockade of the Black Sea prevented him from selling the rest of last year.

Now, the agriculture ministry expects storage capacity to be depleted by October, with grain and seed crops reaching about 60 million tonnes – half of last year.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Markian Dimitrasevich told NPR, “Some parts of our facility storage are in temporarily occupied territories, some of them have been destroyed.” “We understand that we will face a shortage of grain storage. … the deficit could be 10-15 million tons.”

President Biden said the United States would help build temporary installations in Poland.

Meanwhile, farmers like Tatarv will use huge silo bags to store 200,000 tons of crop grains and seeds in the land. Other farmers, including Vasily Khamilenko, are looking for beans for rent

“I’ve never needed storage before,” he says. “Port [in Odesa] It’s very close to us, so when we harvested, the trucks came straight to the field and took the grain. ”

Khamilenko says the harvested grain cannot sit in the open in the field because the rain will destroy it. He is in talks with a company to save his entire yield, which he estimates is 400 to 500 tons.

He said he hopes they will take some grain as payment.

The Ukrainian flag represents a blue sky above the yellow farmland like the grain of Vasily Khamilenko’s farm outside the city of Odessa.

Peter Granitz / NPR

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NPR

The Ukrainian flag represents a blue sky above the yellow farmland like the grain of Vasily Khamilenko’s farm outside the city of Odessa.

Lyubchenko says he has experience demining as a former military colonel. He points to a pile of weapons that he says he has removed from his fields. But that was it Before the season, when the plants were small. Now it would be very dangerous to do so, he says, because tall plants hinder his approach to the ground.

He said he would save his crop as much as possible and wait for the blockade to end.

A pile of rockets and shells that Mikhailov Lubchenko says he removed from his field.  Lyubchenko, a former colonel in the Soviet army, said he had spent part of his military career in subversive activities.  He calls for today's Russian forces "21st century barbarians."

Peter Granitz / NPR

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NPR

A pile of rockets and shells that Mikhailov Lubchenko says he removed from his field. Lyubchenko, a former colonel in the Soviet army, said he had spent part of his military career in subversive activities. He called today’s Russian forces “the barbarians of the twenty-first century.”

For Khamilenko, if he can’t sell this year, he says he’ll be out for about 70 70,000. “If we lose it, it will be impossible to rebuild. I have paid a lot more to this business to recover it,” he says.

Khamilenko’s farm is relatively far from the front line and he says he is confident that Russian forces will not reach his land.

But the threat of gunfire, and possible fire from them, continues to haunt him. Russia has stepped up its shelling and missile attacks in the south, including attacks on food storage facilities in Mykolive and Odessa in recent weeks.

“The most important thing is that we lift the blockade of our seaport,” Dimitrasevich said. “The only way to do that is to defeat the Russians. So we need weapons, weapons and ammunition.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.




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