Ukrainian agricultural boom: Why it matters to Irish farmers
Ukraine has officially reported yet another record grain harvest for 2016, exceeding 66m tonnes in the process.
Of this, wheat accounted for 26.8m tonnes, maize came in at 28m tonnes and the barley harvest amounted to 9.9m tonnes. Aside, 4.3m tonnes of soy bean were also harvested.
Agriculture-related products are now the largest exports from Ukraine, accounting for €14.6 billion, or 42.5% of total Ukrainian exports in 2016 (by value).
The impact of Ukraine’s agricultural export-led growth can already be seen in Ireland.
Ukraine has been the leading overseas supplier of maize into Ireland over the past three years, exporting 284,908t to Ireland last year.
The opportunity for further bilateral trade opportunities with Ukraine needs to be further explored.
For example, as a key global fertiliser exporter, Ireland could easily turn to Ukraine for supply of this key input.
At the same time, Ukraine has a deficit in quality bovine stock and genetics. It also imports a lot of its farm machinery needs.
These are areas that Ireland could capitalise on – from an export point of view.
Sugar beet industry
Ukraine has the capability to double its agricultural output; there’s enough capacity to feed 500m people. It has the capability to easily capitalise on post-Brexit agri-food trade opportunities.
Similarly, those with notions of resurrecting Ireland’s sugar beet industry should cast a wary eye on the Eastern European country.
Keep in mind, Ukraine planted 2.75 times more land area under sugar beet in 2006. Also, Ukrainian sugar beet yields are just two-thirds of EU average yields.
It could easily up the ante in the market, with further growth.
Ukraine has 41m hectares of farmland; that’s ten times Ireland’s 4.1m hectares. Over half of this land is farmed by 48,000 commercial farmers.
Out of these 48,000 commercial farmers:
- The top-100 farming companies, known as ‘Agri-Holdings’, collectively farm 6.4m hectares (15.8m acres). These holdings range in size from 14,000ha (34,600ac), to the largest farming corporation in the country with 654,000ha (1.6m acres).
- Below this there are 5,400 farms managing, on average, farms sizes of 1,950ha (4,815ac).
- Rounding off the commercial farming sector are 42,700 farmers farming, on average, 108ha each (267ac).
Long known as the ‘bread-basket of Europe’, Ukraine boasts 33% of the world’s fertile chernozem soils (a fertile black soil – rich in humus).
- Top producer of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.
- Second highest exporter of grains.
- Third highest producer of barley.
- Fourth highest exporter of barley.
- Fifth highest producer of corn.
- Sixth highest exporter of wheat.
- Seventh highest exporter of flour.
- Eighth highest producer of soy bean.
- Ninth highest producer of wheat.
Looking forward to 2017 Bohdan Chomiak, of consulting agency Ukragroconsult, is confident of another good year for Ukraine’s agriculture sector.
“We expect continued growth in output, as deregulation and reforms have made it simpler for Ukrainian producers to access international best technologies.
“As producers learn to effectively use these technologies this will lead to further growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukragroconsult is also running its annual grain conference at the beginning of next month. One of the largest grain conferences in Europe, the event is expected to bring together over 700 executive delegates from 500 companies – representing 50 countries.
The popularity of this event further demonstrates Ukraine’s growing influence in the agricultural sector – within and outside its own borders.