The number of cultivated fields in Ukraine has declined by a quarter since the beginning of Russia’s military operation, as per Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi on June 13.
The minister indicates that this year’s harvest will be sufficient for domestic need, due to the mass exodus of Ukrainians. The export situation, however, is looking much more uncertain. Ukraine is a leading exporter of grain, vegetable oils, and other agricultural products.
Tonnes of Ukrainian grain remains trapped in ports by Russia. Ukraine is an essential food exporter for much of the world. Nations in North Africa, such as Egypt, rely on Black Sea grain for around 80% of their supply.
While addressing the media, Vysotskyi said that Russian forces had stolen an estimated 500,000 tonnes of grain. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Ukraine faces up to a 40% decline in harvest this year, significantly increasing the risk of global famine.
“We have lost 25% of the arable area. In terms of volumes, of course, it is more. We anticipate that the harvest will be around 35% less than in previous years, which means around 30 million tonnes less, 35-40% less, almost half of the previous year’s harvest,” Vysotskyi said.
Last year, Ukraine harvested around 86 million tonnes of grain. This year, this figure is set to drop to around 48.5 million tonnes.
The total 2022-2023 exportable surplus is expected to be around 30 million tonnes, with wheat exports comprising around 17-20 million tonnes. If ports remain blocked, the minister expects Ukraine to export just 2 million tonnes of grains per month, a third of pre-war levels.
On June 11, the minister had said that an additional 300,000 tonnes of grain might have been destroyed by Russian shelling while it sat in warehouses in Kyiv.
If nothing changes soon, the United Nations predicts that there will be a “hurricane of hunger” as a result of the conflict, as 15 African countries affected by widespread poverty import over 50% of their wheat exclusively from Ukraine and Russia.
Russia has made promises to resolve issues relating to grain exports from Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine was responsible for mining its waters and blockading its own ports. The Ukrainian deputy agricultural minister rejected these allegations.
“It’s untrue, the problem is Russian military ships, it’s not the case of Ukraine. So far, they don’t safely allow civilian ships to move in and out of Ukrainian ports,” he said.