Anxiety grows for Ukraine’s grain farmers as harvest begins

Jul 9, 2022, 11:23 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm

A farmer collects harvest on a field ten kilometres from the front line where fierce battle is goin...

A farmer collects harvest on a field ten kilometres from the front line where fierce battle is going, a crater left by the Russian rocket in the foreground, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

ZHURIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Oleksandr Chubuk’s warehouse should be empty, awaiting the new harvest, with his supply of winter wheat already shipped abroad. Instead, his storage bins in central Ukraine are piled high with grain he cannot ship out because of the war with Russia.

The green spikes of wheat are already ripening. Soon, the horizon will look like the Ukrainian flag, a sea of gold beneath a blue sky. Chubuk expects to reap 500 tons, but for the first time in his 30 years as a farmer, he’s uncertain about what to do with it.

“Hope is the only thing I have now,” he said.

The war has trapped about 22 million tons of grain inside Ukraine, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a growing crisis for the country known as the “breadbasket of Europe” for its exports of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.

Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine could export 6 million to 7 million tons of grain per month, but in June it shipped only 2.2 million tons, according to the Ukrainian Grain Association. Normally, it sends about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia, said Mykola Horbachov, head of the association.

With Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, the fate of the upcoming harvest in Ukraine is in doubt. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says the war is endangering food supplies for many developing nations and could worsen hunger for up to 181 million people.

Meanwhile, many farmers in Ukraine could go bankrupt. They are facing the most difficult situation since gaining independence in 1991, Horbachov said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country is working with the U.N., Ukraine, and Russia to find a solution, offering safe corridors in the Black Sea for wheat shipments.

For now, Ukraine is trying less-effective alternatives to export its grain, at least to Europe. Currently, 30% of exports go via three Danube River ports in southwestern Ukraine.

The country also is trying to ship grain via 12 border crossings with European countries, but trucks must wait in line for days, and Europe’s infrastructure cannot yet absorb such a volume of grain, Horbachov said.

“It’s impossible to build such infrastructure in one year,” he told The Associated Press.

Russia’s invasion also caused transportation costs to soar. The price to deliver this year’s harvested barley to the closest Romanian port, Constanta, is now $160 to $180 per ton, up from $40 to $45. And yet a farmer selling barley to a trader gets less than $100 per ton.

The losses are piling up, along with the harvest.

“Most of the farmers are running the risk of becoming bankrupt very soon. But they don’t have any other option but to sell their grain cheaper than its cost,” Horbachov said.

On top of such challenges, not all farmers can sell their grain.

Before the invasion, Chubuk could sell a ton of wheat from his Kyiv region farm for $270. Now he can’t find a buyer even at $135 per ton.

“The whole system backs up,” including storage options, said James Heneghan, senior vice president at Gro Intelligence, a global climate and agriculture data analytics company. The system was meant to keep Ukraine’s exports flowing, not store them.

Without money coming in for grain, future harvests are challenging. “Farmers need to purchase fertilizers, seeds, diesel, pay the salary,” Horbachov said. “Ukrainian farmers can’t print money.”

The country hasn’t yet run out of storage as the harvest begins.

Ukraine has about 65 million to 67 million tons of commercial grain storage capacity, according to Horbachov, although 20% of that is in Russian-occupied territories. Farmers themselves can store 20 million to 25 million tons, but some of that is also in occupied areas.

By the end of September, when the harvest of corn and sunflower seeds begins, Ukraine will face a shortage of storage capacity.

The FAO recently announced a $17 million project to help address the storage deficit. Heneghan of Gro Intelligence noted that one temporary solution could be providing farmers with silo bags for storage.

In eastern and southern regions near the front line, farmers continue to work their fields despite the threat to their lives.

“It can be finished in a moment by bombing, or as we see now, the fields are on fire,” said Yurii Vakulenko in the Dnipropetrovsk region, black smoke visible in the distance.

His workers risk their lives for little return, with storage facilities now refusing to take their grain, Vakulenko said.

Ukraine had a record-breaking grain harvest last year, collecting 107 million tons. Even more had been expected this year.

Now, in the best-case scenario, farmers will harvest only 70 million tons of grain this year, Horbachov estimated.

“Without opening the (Black Sea) ports, I don’t see any solution for Ukrainian farmers to survive,” he said. “And if they don’t survive, we won’t be able to feed African countries.”

___

Francesca Ebel, Valerii Rezik and Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Ukraine and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Farmer Serhiy gestures standing near a mound of grain in his barn in the village of Ptyche in eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, June 12, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              A farmer collects harvest on his field ten kilometres from the front line where fierce battle is going between Ukrainian troops and Russian invaders in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              A farmer collects harvest from his field near the front line in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              A farmer collects fragments of Russian rockets that he found on his field ten kilometres from the front line in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              Smoke rises from the front lines where fierce battle is going between Ukrainian and Russian troops, farmer fields in the foreground, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              A farmer reacts as he looks at his burning field caused by the fighting at the front line in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              Farmer Andriy Zubko checks wheat ripeness on a field in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              Smoke rises in the background during a fierce battle on the frontline, as a farmer collects harvest in a field in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              A farmer collects harvest on a field ten kilometres from the front line where fierce battle is going, a crater left by the Russian rocket in the foreground, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine, Monday, July 4, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year’s harvest still can’t reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            Farmer Serhiy, a local grain producer, shows a crater left by a Russian shell on his field in the village of Ptyche in eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, June 12, 2022. An estimated 22 million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine, and pressure is growing as the new harvest begins. The country usually delivers about 30% of its grain to Europe, 30% to North Africa and 40% to Asia. But with the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, millions of tons of last year's harvest still can't reach their destinations. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

AP

(Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Associated Press

Florida police search for 3 gunmen who wounded 9 at crowded beach on Memorial Day

Police are responding to a shooting near the beach broadwalk in Hollywood, Florida.

2 days ago

Crew members assemble the main stage ahead of the 2023 Scripps Nations Spelling Bee on Sunday, May ...

Associated Press

Exclusive secrets of the National Spelling Bee: Picking the words to identify a champion

As the final pre-competition meeting of the Scripps National Spelling Bee's word selection panel stretches into its seventh hour, the pronouncers no longer seem to care.

2 days ago

FILE - Gabby Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt, wipes a tear from her face during a news conference o...

Associated Press

Mother of man who killed Gabby Petito said in letter she would help son ‘dispose of a body’

The mother of the man who killed Gabby Petito told her son in an undated letter that she would “dispose of a body” if needed because she loved him so much, according to copies of the note shared publicly for the first time this week by attorneys for Petito's parents.

5 days ago

A member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, places flags in front of e...

Associated Press

5 things to know about Memorial Day including its controversies

Memorial Day is supposed to be about mourning the nation’s fallen service members, but it’s come to anchor the unofficial start of summer and a long weekend of discounts on anything from mattresses to lawn mowers.

5 days ago

FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he test...

Associated Press

Officers describe chaos, fear on Jan. 6 as judge weighs prison time for Oath Keepers’ Rhodes

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and public servants who fled the mob's attack told a judge on Wednesday that they are still haunted by what they endured, as the judge prepares to hand down sentences in a landmark Capitol riot case.

6 days ago

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday,...

Associated Press

Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ+-themed products

Target once distinguished itself as being boldly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

SANDERSON FORD

Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

Anxiety grows for Ukraine’s grain farmers as harvest begins