Ukrainian farmers defiant as they fly blue and yellow flags in face of Putins occupation

Ukraine: Farmers begin sowing seeds despite occupation

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As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears its first month, farmers in the south of the war-torn country have been spotted “sowing under blue and yellow flags” in a video shared by local publication The New Voice of Ukraine. The region’s main city, north of Crimea, was the first big urban centre to fall to Vladimir Putin’s troops, with Moscow capturing it within the first week after the war began on February 24.

On Monday, March 21, Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian forces had used stun grenades and gunfire to disperse a rally of pro-Ukrainian protesters in occupied Kherson.

Several hundred protesters in the city’s Freedom Square ran to escape as projectiles landed around them, sparking clouds of whitish smoke and wounding at least one civilian.

Footage of the farmers renews questions on the struggles brought by the war to Ukraine’s farming sector – one of the world’s largest.

The Kremlin attacked its neighbour at a crucial time for fieldwork, putting in danger Ukraine’s food system.

This is set to impact not only the nation’s already-suffering population but also the global supply chain, given the country’s position as a top grain and vegetable oil exporter to Asia, Europe and Africa.

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Important amounts of corn, rye, oats and millet also come from Ukraine.

The United Nations estimates 20 to 30 percent of the fields normally used for winter cereals, corn and sunflower seeds will go unplanted or unharvested for this year’s coming season.

Meanwhile, about half of the grain the World Food Program (WFP), the UN’s food assistance agency, buys to feed 125 million people worldwide comes from Ukraine – putting its mission at stake.

According to the WFP, depressed wheat exports from the war will add to rising food prices, creating a “recipe for “catastrophe not just in Ukraine, but potentially globally”.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley told AP News in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv last week as he visited a refugee centre where food aid was distributed: “It will impact millions and millions of people, particularly in the poorest countries of the world.”

Even though there are other major grain producers, such as the US, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina, that could ramp up production to fill in the gaps from lost Ukrainian supplies, the country’s losses have been described as hard to make up for.

Blocked ports are another barrier. Mykola Gorbachev, chairman of the Ukrainian Grain Association, told Reuters fighting had left around 100 foreign-flagged vessels stranded in the country’s ports.

With Putin’s troops preventing Ukraine from selling millions of tonnes of wheat and corn that had been earmarked for export by June, the country faces a possible grain revenue loss of $6billion, Mr Gorbachev said.

The industry official said Ukraine had around 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn still to export from the 2021/22 season, which ends in June, at an average price of around $300 per tonne.

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He explained there was no way that kind of volume can be transported by train, as the railway had a throughput capacity of some 600,000 tonnes per month, a tenth of what ports handled before the war.

In the UK, it has been warned food prices will rise as a result of the war, with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) calling the Government for urgent action to help farmers at home produce enough food to keep supermarkets stocked and affordable.

The union wrote in a letter: “The government must act now, with a clear signal that food security is a priority for the nation.”

Disruption to food production, supply chains and the availability and affordability of food in the shops, the NFU claimed, could last for years.

Another element affecting food production in the UK, the union said, is that Ukrainian workers who plant, pick, pack and grade fresh produce have accounted for 60 percent of recruits under the UK’s Seasonal Workers Scheme.

It asked the Government to release an additional 10,000 visas under the Seasonal Workers Scheme, in addition to the 30,000 already granted, so they can continue to carry out these essential roles.

Russia had been the world’s top wheat exporter in 2020/21. It is also a key supplier of barley and fertilizer.

The impact of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine on its trade activities is not clear yet.

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