Ukraine’s cropping prospects improve after Russian retreat

Prospects for Ukraine’s spring sowing space have improved after Russian forces retreated from the north and west of the nation, say analysts.

The Russian withdrawal from Ukraine’s northern areas and no additional advance past Mykolaiv within the South has freed up about 5m hectares of land that will likely be farmed to a larger of lesser extent, based on Black Sea agronomist Mike Lee.

Mr Lee, director of Green Square Agro Consulting (Twitter: @GreenSquareAC), mentioned: “It has now been confirmed that the Russians have fully pulled out of the northern oblasts of Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy.

See additionally: How Ukraine warfare will impression its farming – agronomist’s view

“This is about 4.9m hectares of arable land [70% of Ukraine’s total arable land]. Not all of that may have been in danger or occupied. But it does imply this land is now again on-line.

“That said, we have seen some of the atrocities coming out of that area and clearly some of that land is not going to be available to farm for some time.”

Good climate

In a traditional yr, Ukrainian farmers can be feeling upbeat concerning the present climate, mentioned Mr Lee, which he described as “very good”. 

“The winter wheat came out of the winter in reasonable condition. It is receiving its fertiliser,” he added. “There was a bit of dryness in the South West, but that seems to have been alleviated.”

However, Mr Lee tempered this optimism with issues about what might unfold in southern Ukraine.

“If Russian troops advance past Mykolaiv and into Odesa, that’s one other 3.4m hectares [12% of Ukraine’s agricultural land] in danger. What you will have gained within the North, you could possibly lose within the South.

“As of this moment, things are looking slightly more optimistic than they did a week ago, but that could change quickly.”

Beyond this planting stage, he mentioned it was too early to gauge what might occur by harvest as a result of uncertainty across the warfare.

Mr Lee is presently forecasting manufacturing throughout all crops will likely be 30-40% down on a traditional yr.

Direct-drilled winter barley

© Mike Lee

Logistical difficulties 

Carl Atkin, director of agribusiness administration agency and consultancy Terravost, which advises Ukrainian farming companies, mentioned Russia’s retreat from Ukraine would enable farmers to plant extra crops and had boosted harvest prospects for 2022.

“While the sown crop area will undoubtedly be down, and logistical difficulties remain, the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from some areas of the North and East could mean the effect on the Ukrainian spring seeding area might not be quite as bad as first feared,” he mentioned.

Ukraine agriculture ministry upgrades spring planting prospects

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry has projected spring crop plantings at 13.4m hectares – 3.5m hectares lower than in 2021.

This is a extra optimistic evaluation than the one delivered by former Ukrainian farm minister Roman Leshchenko in March, who warned Ukraine’s spring cropping space might be greater than halved.

On 4 April, farm minister Mykola Solsky mentioned spring planting was below manner in Ukraine and farmers have been drilling wheat and barley, however had not began maize, sunflowers and different crops.

Mr Solsky predicted there might be issues with logistics in harvesting, transporting and processing the crops later within the season.

Before the warfare, Ukraine exported 4-5m tonnes of grain by way of Black Sea ports every year. But Mr Solsky mentioned it will likely be “much less” this yr, as grain shipments out of Ukraine halted when Russia invaded the nation in late February.

“We can’t export the amount of grain that we usually sell abroad. It’s more than 20m tonnes of maize, sunflower seeds, soya beans, wheat and processed products,” mentioned Mr Solsky.

“It’s already influenced world prices. Last month everyone could see it clearly and feel it. It has led to an increase in world food prices.”

However, some grain parcels are being transported on roads and railways from western Ukraine to Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. “Last month, we sent about 800,000t and we will increase our monthly capacity,” mentioned Mr Solsky.

Grain shipments have restarted from Romania and Bulgaria, however are low in contrast with Ukrainian and Russian cargoes.

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