Ukraine’s European partners are being urged to help the country’s farmers with their spring sowing campaign by supporting it with supplies of seeds, equipment and fuel.
Roman Leshchenko, Ukraine’s minister of agrarian policy and food, told members of the European parliament (MEPs) that farmers have started their spring cultivations, despite heavy shelling and the danger from land mines laid by Russian soldiers.
During a live debate with the European parliament’s agriculture committee on Tuesday (22 March), Mr Leshchenko said his country’s farmers were doing everything they could to “stop the meltdown of the global food system”.
He urged Ukraine’s allies to show solidarity by providing the inputs needed for crop production, urging a “quick response without bureaucracy”.
Plant protection products including herbicides are a priority, he said.
Mr Leshchenko, a farmer’s son, made a direct appeal to agrochemical companies including Bayer Crop Science and BASF to provide these at cost price.
He revealed that poultry farmers had already been forced to destroy three million chickens because they had nothing to feed them. Dairy farmers were also slaughtering their cows, “to protect them from death by hunger”.
Ukraine is a major producer of meat and milk as well as sunflower oil and wheat. It has forward contracts to export 12m tonnes of corn and 3m tonnes of sunflowers, but the ports they would have been shipped from have been blocked and the roads leading to those mined.
The country had also been forced to halt exports of fertiliser, said Mr Leshchenko.
“We have to limit our exports to ensure our survival because we don’t understand when we will have the opportunity to start our agricultural season, the situation changes every day,” he said.
German MEP Norbert Lins, who chairs the agriculture committee, said EU member states would “do their utmost” to speed up this support as quickly as possible.
Crops to grow on EFAs considered
Farmers in EU countries are set to get the go ahead to grow crops on fallow land in their Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) to ramp up food production this spring.
The temporary derogation is under consideration as a direct response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its repercussions for global food supply.
The so-called “Implementation Act” – legislation to temporarily allowing member states to scrap some greening commitments – would pave the way for the EU to increase its production capacity in 2022.
If, as expected, it gets the green light next week, farmers would still receive their greening payment in full for the 2022 claim year.
They would also be permitted to use plant protection products on these new planting areas.