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Ukrainian fruits and vegetables: how can farmers provide the world with food during the war?

In the first days of May the season of planting vegetables on homestead plots began. It depends on ordinary Ukrainians who plant potatoes today whether we will be able to ensure not only Ukrainian but also international food security – because in addition to ourselves, Ukraine feeds about 400 million people in the world. What steps is the state taking to stimulate fruit and vegetable production in Ukraine, and what contribution can every Ukrainian make to this process, – says today Iryna Gruzinska, head of the sector “Agriculture” BRDO.

What is the fruit and vegetable market of Ukraine?

With the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the issue of the collapse of global food markets became relevant, as our country is a world leader in the production and export of grain, legumes and oilseeds. Ukraine occupies important positions in the structure of imports of such countries as China, Egypt, Indonesia, EU countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Libya. According to the results of export activity in 2020, domestic vegetables were exported to 95 countries, consumers of more than 100 countries ate Ukrainian fruits. EU countries accounted for 60% of total exports of fruits and vegetables from Ukraine.

Currently, significant efforts of Ukrainians are aimed at finding all possible ways to deny vegetables and fruits not only domestic but also international consumers.

More than 80% of fruit and vegetables and more than 90% of potatoes in Ukraine are grown by households. The issue of forming a “borscht set” falls on the shoulders of all who have homesteads and the ability to cultivate them. The main Ukrainian regions with “vegetable capacity” are traditionally the southern regions of the country, in particular Kherson – it accounts for about 13% of total vegetable production. Whole villages in Zaporizhia grow tomatoes, cucumbers and greens. Today, some of these regions are under occupation by invaders and there are active hostilities, which makes it impossible to harvest.

The cultivation of “Nizhyn cucumbers”, which has already become a world brand and is even served to Queen Elizabeth II, is now under threat as the Chernihiv region is under occupation and is still being shelled by the Russians. It is also important to support the producers of fruits and berries that grow cherry orchards in Vinnytsia, the traditional “Melitopol cherries” and “Kherson watermelons”.

How to harvest vegetables and fruits despite the war?

What we will have on our tables this year depends on the efficient use of all land suitable for agricultural production. In order to simplify the provision of land for the needs of the national economy, agricultural sector and citizens of Ukraine during martial law, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted Bill № 7289, which was developed by BRDO experts. Thanks to this document, territorial communities of villages, settlements and cities have the opportunity to lease agricultural land, which is the communal property of territorial communities, without state registration of communal ownership of such land. The adoption of the bill will provide for the urgent needs in the land plots of entities that are important for the national economy, the agricultural sector and the citizens of Ukraine, and thus ensure a reliable Ukrainian rear.

The relevant foreign associations of fruit and vegetable producers have declared their readiness to help Ukraine get this year’s harvest. In particular, the world encourages producers to diversify the range of products grown. The seeds of the main vegetable crops will be provided to Ukrainians by international organizations as humanitarian aid. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing these initiatives and plans to raise $ 50 million to help more than 300,000 small and medium-sized farms and households in Ukraine. The World Food Program, in turn, helps organize warehouses for food products, including the flour industry, in many regions of Ukraine.

The state encourages agricultural producers to join the Victory Gardens initiative. During the Second World War, such measures were implemented in the United States, Britain, Australia and had a significant social and economic impact. Parks, backyards, sports fields and even the roofs of high-rise buildings have been adapted for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs. “Victory Gardens” were part of the daily life of the rear (“home front”) of these countries, and can play an important role not only in providing the world with food, but also in maintaining the morale of Ukrainians in our war. You can learn more about how to create a garden individually and within the community and provide yourself with food at:

Another experimental step that can allow farmers to reap despite the war is to grow products that are exotic to our land, including chickpeas and bananas. Such initiatives are planned to be implemented by agricultural producers in Cherkasy region.

Simultaneously with the fruit and vegetable season, the honey harvest season also begins. As you know, this product in Ukraine is focused on foreign markets: Ukrainian farmers rank second among world exporters of honey. Before the war, apiaries were registered in every region of our country – there were more than 45,000 bee families – more than 2 million quotas for honey exports to EU countries Ukrainians chose every year during the first weeks of January.

Currently, last year’s remnants of honey products in Ukraine have been transferred to the needs of the Armed Forces. World consumers may experience a shortage of Ukrainian honey due to hostilities, which are also destroying apiaries. The Ministry of Agrarian Policy has prepared detailed recommendations on how to act in a state of war for beekeepers, you can read them at the link. In particular, the state calls on honey producers who are in the zone of active hostilities to transport production. Businesses can get help from the government to relocate their equipment to safe areas, find production facilities and relocate workers.

The abolition of customs duties and export quotas by the EU and the United Kingdom could be an important step in supporting the export of agricultural products from Ukraine, as we used most of the latter within the first half of the year. For domestic vegetables and fruits, the possibility of abolishing (suspending) the entry price system is being considered. Such a positive policy of our partner countries will help to remind the whole world of Ukrainian products and will additionally stimulate Ukrainian economies in this difficult time. A similar proposal has already been made by the European Commission, but the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have yet to consider and agree on this decision.

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