Agriculture and Dairy in Ukraine’s Dark Times | Master Edition

I hadn’t really thought about it before and was surprised to learn that Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe after France, roughly the size of Texas, although sources vary at this subject.

Some regard it as the largest, discounting regions of Russia as part of Europe or calculating an inferior region for France. Seeing the images of the news war got me thinking about the impact the farming industry might have there and what it might mean for Europe and other parts of the world.

Seventy percent (102.5 million acres) of Ukraine is covered with agricultural land. It is often referred to, like our Midwest, as a “breadbasket,” responsible for 12-19% of world exports of wheat, corn, barley and rapeseed. Compare Ukraine at 16% to the United States at 38% of world corn exports — Ukraine’s production and exports are impressive.

At present, there are expected to be serious disruptions in spring planting, although Ukrainian farmers say they will do everything possible to ensure that the harvest arrives on time or close to it.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging farmers to plant crops, but many are forced to flee the country or fear for their workers due to war activities near their homes. The United Nations predicts that up to 30% of Ukrainian crops may go unsown.

What is the place of the dairy industry in the Ukrainian agricultural economy? And what about war?

As in the United States, the majority of dairy farms in Ukraine are family-run, with factory farms accounting for only about 30% of the total. Some unfavorable climatic conditions led to a drop in production for 2020, but production has remained stable since then with very slight decreases. Additionally, like the United States, Ukraine has a valuable and strong cheese-making sector.

Ukraine exports whole milk and cream, butter, condensed milk, skimmed powder and whey to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There has been a decline in dairy product exports in 2021, seen by the government due to the pandemic and disruptions to supply chains.

Since dairy is the second largest agricultural sector in Ukraine (after crops), there has been a high level of investment in the modernization of agricultural operations, which should stabilize the industry and increase production for exports.

The current war may change all that, however.

Agri-View recently told the story of a dairy farmer who left his big farm — he has two Ukrainian business partners — to return home to the Netherlands. His operation milked 2,000 cows a day and he said: “Last I heard the trucks were still picking up the milk.

You have to wonder how long this will last. I also have to ask what will happen to the cows if the other owners have to abandon the farm.

Other dairy farmers operating in relatively “quiet” parts of the country face increased costs for feed, fuel and other supplies. Some are resorting to unplanned culling of their herds, resulting in higher prices for these cows relative to what can be made from milking.

As one farmer put it in a report in The Times, “I’m slaughtering my herd because the price of cull cows has skyrocketed because there’s a shortage of cows for McDonald’s and that kind of place.

Economic reports recently released by King Consulting in the UK indicate that all dairy exports from Ukraine are likely to cease, leading to a huge commodity shortage across Europe.

World dairy prices are expected to increase due to the loss of Ukrainian and Belarusian exports, which could also lead to increased production in other regions of the world.

None of us can imagine the disruption Ukrainian dairy farmers are facing. The tragedy makes our internal struggles and squabbles (in the Pennsylvania dairy industry) very small in comparison. Maybe we can use this moment for good by making serious commitments to work together to solve the problems we face. We started down this road, but maybe we can try harder. I am disposed.

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board is always available to answer questions and concerns. I can be reached at 717-210-8244 or by email at [email protected]