Ukrainian farmers continue to struggle despite their essential role in Ukraine’s economic recovery: Mercy Corps’ new report

May 29, 2024

In contrast to the prevailing narrative of Ukrainian farmers flooding European markets with cheap and plentiful products, Ukrainian small-scale producers are struggling with labor shortages, decreasing domestic demand, and a lack of assistance to rebuild damaged infrastructure while export options remain limited, Mercy Corps reveals in a new report.

The report, “Farmers in wartime: Promoting Adaptability and Resilience for Agriculture in Ukraine,” highlights the struggles of ordinary working farmers and small businesses. The research aims to paint a more nuanced picture of Ukrainian agriculture that goes beyond mass-scale grain exports, and focuses on household-level and smallholder farmers in the fruit, dairy, poultry and honey sectors, which are essential for the Ukrainian economy and economic recovery.

Mercy Corps Response Director for Ukraine, Vicki Aken, says:

“Ukrainian farmers are often within a few kilometers of the front lines and yet are key to the country's economic and social recovery. Modernizing processing and storage capacities, finding sources of alternative energy, and improving accessibility for workers with disabilities may seem like unrealistic projects in the midst of war. But it is possible, through intelligent, tailor-made programming that supports a pathway from aid dependence to economic recovery.”

“The Ukrainian people deserve to hope for a better future. This starts with understanding Ukraine’s dire realities and promoting strong and resilient solutions to help people adapt not ‘the day after’ the war, but today.”

Since the full-scale war began in 2022, Mercy Corps has supported more than 750,000 conflict-affected people in Ukraine and neighboring countries. We have provided cash assistance; grants for micro, small, and medium businesses and farming enterprises; household, food, and hygiene kits for vulnerable people affected by the war.

Report findings on agricultural production, exports, and other obstacles facing small-scale Ukrainian farmers include:

  • 87.5% of respondents in the fruit and vegetable, 71.4% of poultry and 75% of dairy sector highlighted lack of labor that limits production.
  • 30% of interviewed farmers are open to hiring veterans and people with disabilities, but agricultural equipment typically lacks the necessary accessibility modifications. 
  • Decreasing domestic demand, especially in dairy, honey, and fruit sectors as many of their main consumers, over 5 million women and children, left the country.
  • Beeswax has become the top-selling beekeeping product, ahead of honey, because of  trench candle production increases. Meanwhile, poultry farmers see rising demand for poultry as a “silver lining” due to declining purchasing power, leading consumers to turn away from more expensive products such as beef and pork.

Download the full report here