While missiles continue to bomb Ukrainian cities, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged farmers there to sow as many hectares of grain as they can.
Seeding should begin in April but there are reports of Russian soldiers hiding their tanks on farms to avoid an air attack, and if farmers work at night time, tractor lights are targets for the Russian military.
Ukraine had increased its grain production by 32% in 2021 to 85.7 million tonnes and the global dependence on exports has led to global food prices for commodities, such as bread, which are tipped to rise by 20%.
The Ukrainian president called on his farmers to sow as much seed as possible this spring to ensure harvests are plentiful – but only if it is safe to do so.
On top of export concerns, livestock farmers in Ukraine are fast running out of feed for their cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens and need to replenish stocks as soon as possible.
President Zelenskyy said: “This spring, as much as any spring, we must make a full-fledged sowing campaign. As much as possible. Because it’s about life. About our life. About our future.”
Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, said: “The emphasis will be on spring crops that will be harvested in the summer, because we do not know what the situation will be going forward.
“For the full nutrition of its population and the armed forces, more emphasis will be placed on buckwheat, peas, those types of crops that will make it possible to harvest so that Ukraine is fully provided with food.”
However, farmers face a number of other challenges to get the crops sown in the ground as stock levels of diesel and fertiliser are low.
Ukraine deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy said a “war-induced shortage of fuel would be the main problem for farmers, as they have enough seed to proceed with spring sowing.”
Since the invasion, Ukraine has already suspended exports of rye, oats, millet, buckwheat, salt, sugar, meat and livestock and has introduced licences for wheat, corn and sunflower oil exports.