News Alert: Conflict Demolishes Ukraine’s Agricultural Infrastructure Ahead of Critical Summer Harvest Season

May 11, 2022

War in Ukraine and its effects on export capacity, fuel and fertilizer shortages, as well as landmine contamination, have ravaged agricultural systems and sent shockwaves through global markets. World food prices reached their highest ever levels in March and could rise by up to 20% this year, pushing up to 13 million more people into hunger.

Mike Young, Mercy Corps’ Ukraine Response Director, says: 

“The destruction of infrastructure, closed borders with Russia and Belarus, blocked seaports, mass migration, a reduction in purchasing power, mine contamination, and disruption to the agricultural planting season have cut the Ukrainian market in half.

“Every day that fighting continues the humanitarian situation worsens, bringing with it new threats and exacerbating existing ones.”

Significant barriers to resumption of farming

Across Ukraine, the prices of seeds, plant protection agents, fertilizers and fuel have increased by an average of 35-45%. According to FEWSNET, agricultural production in Ukraine—both winter and spring crops—could decline by as much as 25-50% or more.

In addition to spiking prices of seeds and other agricultural inputs, and limited availability with suppliers closed, farmers face the loss of nursery transplants planted in January and February, and poor access to water supply in areas with no power.

Almost a quarter of the Chernihiv oblast population, 17% of Sumy oblast and 9% of Kyiv oblast work in the agricultural sector. Chernihiv and Sumy produce cash-crops, mostly corn and wheat. As of April 20, only 210 had been cultivated out of a projected 7000 in Chernihiv oblast, compared to 10,000 last year.

Ukraine still needs to export 20 million tons of last year's crops, with the new winter crop harvesting in June-July. Unable to sell last year's crops, farmers do not have enough financial resources to invest in the new season and replace damaged equipment. Destruction of railways will even further limit export capacity.

Mine contamination poses a significant risk to aid and agricultural efforts

Landmine contamination poses a significant risk to delivering humanitarian assistance and resuming agricultural activities. Half the country’s territory needs to be demined.

Mine-contaminated woodland and pastures may significantly affect the livelihoods of rural communities. Agricultural land is not among the top priorities for demining, so farming activities may be impeded. Farmers may have to finance demining activities on their lands – funds for which will be unobtainable for many small and medium-sized businesses.

Mercy Corps is on the ground in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland, currently funding local organizations that know their community needs best and providing assistance to Ukrainians inside the country as well as those who have had to cross borders into neighboring countries. Local organizations we’re supporting are distributing items like medical supplies and food staples, including into eastern Ukraine.  By the end 2022, Mercy Corps and our partners aim to reach at least 500,000 vulnerable Ukrainians and other people in the region affected by war with life saving humanitarian aid.