It’s only when you meet someone actually farming in Ukraine that you get a sense of how bad conditions actually are in the country right now.
Mykola Gordiichuk, a member of the Ukrainian Association of Potato Growers attended this week’s World Potato Congress (WPC) in Dublin. He was accompanied by Wiktoria Jalowenko, a director of the Polish Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce.
Gordiichuk grows potatoes on two farms, one located close to Kviv, the other, a larger unit, is further to the east at Chernihiv – quite close to the border with Russia.
“During the early days of the war, Russian military personnel occupied the farm at Chernihiv,” he told Agriland.
“That area was subsequently liberated by Ukrainian forces. But when we eventually got up to the farm, what we found was a trail of absolute destruction, left by the Russian soldiers.
“The first job that we had to do was clear the land of shells and other ordnance used by the Russians during their initial advance into Ukraine,” Gordiichuk continued.
“The situation was so bad that we had to ask for help from Ukraine’s armed forces to complete the job. Our biggest concern was that some of this discarded weaponry could still explode while the clear-up operation was underway.”
Planting potatoes in Ukraine
Subsequently, Gordiichuk got the all-clear to get on with planting potatoes, which could be harvested in 2022. He grows a mix of seed, crisping and table potatoes.
“It took some time but we eventually sourced the seed, fertiliser and sprays that we needed,” Gordiichuk further explained.
“But crops were a month later in the ground than would normally be the case. This means that final yields will be significantly reduced come harvest time.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s farmers have lots of other issues to keep them occupied at the present time. One of the most pressing is that of clearing grain stores of last year’s harvest, so as to make room for produce grown in 2022.
“It’s critically important that ways are found of allowing Ukraine to sell the crops that were harvested last year,” confirmed Gordiichuk.
“If this does not happen, the country will lose out on a valuable source of income. But there is also the practical problem of ensuring that farmers have the means by which they can store crops harvested later this year.”
Mykola Gordiichuk is totally convinced that, in the end, Ukraine will defeat Russia on the battle field.
“But this is only the beginning of the way back for Ukraine as a country,” he stressed.
“Russia is strategically obliterating the entire infrastructure of my country. When the war is over, the reconstruction challenge will be immense.
“Ukraine’s farming industry will require immense investment over the coming years.”
The Ukrainian farmer commended Ireland for supporting Ukraine’s cause and added that this should continue into the future.
“Ukraine is in directly the firing line right now between totalitarianism and the free world,” he explained.
“There is a need for countries like Ireland and many others around the world to recognise this fundamental fact and act accordingly.”