Aerial photo/AFP of a field near Krivoi in south-central Ukraine.
Oleksandr Ryabinin’s farm has already harvested almost half of its sunflower production, but the war has made grain exports so difficult that farmers are struggling to sell “a kilo of grain.” I admit that there is no.
Ukraine is one of the world’s leading producers of sunflower grain and oil, but Russia’s territorial aggression has made its exports a logistical challenge.
The situation has become even more difficult after Russia in July suspended Ukraine’s grain export deal, which was agreed in summer 2022 under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey.
“I haven’t sold a kilo of sunflower seeds,” Ryabinin, 52, admitted to AFP.
“People are afraid. Ships won’t come because[Russian forces]will bomb the port, and no one wants to take that risk,” Ryabinin explains.
The farmer, who owns land in the southeastern regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson regions (southern Ukraine), regrets that middlemen are lowering prices due to lack of demand.
“There’s no point in selling at this point,” he says. “We will wait for prices to rise and maritime export corridors to open.”
– A fulfilling farm –
Sunflower fields occupy a significant part of the territory of Ukraine, and harvesting begins towards the end of summer.
Ryabinin is confident that some fields, where harvesters are being installed one after another, will finish harvesting within 10 days.
Beans wrapped in black skin can be stored for a year before becoming acidic.
But the farmer is worried about the growing mountain of sunflowers and wheat berries. At the moment, we can only sell rapeseed.
The war has not only made exporting agricultural products difficult, but last year 40% of farms were unable to grow crops due to proximity to the front lines.
Holes from shell fragments can still be seen in the metal walls of the farm’s warehouses, and traces of cluster bomb impacts can still be seen in the concrete walls.
Ryabinin recalled how one of his employees, a 26-year-old father of one, was killed by shrapnel while trying to hide during the bombing.
After the Russians abandoned the city of Kherson and the front was established on the Dnieper, the situation became calmer for this peasant.
Nevertheless, he had to spend a good part of the winter not only clearing the weeds, but also calling in specialized teams to clear the mines.
And this summer, when he was able to harvest all the land, he faced a new problem. “We have crops, but we can’t sell them.”