KHRESHCHATE, (Ukraine): Ukrainian farmer Mykola Tereshchenko hopes to start harvesting his wheat fields this week, but the smallholder in northern Ukraine has nowhere to store the grain. His silos are still crammed full with 1,100 tonnes of grain from last year’s harvest that he can’t export due to the closure of Ukraine’s sea ports following Russia’s invasion in February.
While some crops have left by rail or road via neighbours such as Romania and Poland, millions of tonnes have piled up on farms and a lack of shipments from one of the world’s biggest grain exporters is pushing up global food prices.
The US Department of Agriculture estimated this month that Ukraine ended the 2021/22 season in June with 6.8 million tonnes of corn, an eight-fold rise from the a year earlier, while wheat stocks almost quadrupled to 5.8 million.
UN agencies have warned that lack of Ukrainian grain, which typically goes to the Middle East and Africa, is threatening starvation and mass migration on an “unprecedented scale”. Farmers such as Tereshchenko, in regions where sending grain via rail or road to eastern Europe is problematic, will have to sell their harvest at a huge loss if they can’t store it, leaving less cash to buy seeds, fertilisers and chemicals for next season and exacerbating expected falls in Ukraine’s output.
Tereshchenko farms as part of a collective of 30 people near Khreshchate, a village of 700 people some 120 kms (75 miles) from the Russian border that was shelled and bombed during the first month of the war. The villagers mostly hid in cellars during strikes that destroyed the roofs of the farm, Tereshchenko said. Thirty cows and pigs were killed.
Once Russia withdrew to focus on capturing a swathe of Ukraine’s east after failing to take the capital Kyiv, sappers combed fields that had been littered with the detritus of war, defusing mines and ordnance. Farmers then went through the fields using tractors to drag rockets out of the soil. Almost no money has come in to the collective, which has only managed to sell some sunflower seeds at very bad prices.