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Wessel de Jong
Wessel de Jong
Anatoly Gagvoronsky looks dejectedly at the covered Montenegro a few meters high. “All the sunflower seeds are here. And you don’t have any sunflower oil,” says the farmer, who works on 2,300 hectares growing rapeseed and wheat. So does the sunflower, which forms the cheery undulating plains here in southern Ukraine.
The Russian Navy is closing off the Black Sea, so Ukrainian grain – as well as sunflower – cannot be exported. The Russians, in turn, accuse the Ukrainians of making navigation impossible by laying sea mines.
What does he think of Turkish mediation efforts to persuade Putin to let the grain pass? Gajvoronski wants to give an optimistic answer, but it doesn’t work out well: “I have little hope that something will happen. I hope the United Nations will pressure Russia to let our ships through. The story goes that the export will be back to normal in five months. But personally I don’t.” I think so. Negotiating with the Russians is a waste of time. You can make agreements with them, but they still violate them.”
Since the grain cannot be exported, all Gajvoronski’s granaries are full to the brim with the last harvest. Each barn is used as a temporary storage for the new harvest. This is why arable farms are now taking drastic action. Freshly harvested grain is discarded in the yard. Rolled plastic sheeting is ready when the rain starts.
This is not good for quality? Part will be lost. But I have no other choice. Gagvoronsky hopes to expel the Russian army quickly and liberate the ports so that he can sell the grain before there is anything left.
Land transport to Polish and Romanian ports? The desperate farmer raises his arms in the air. The truck can carry about 40, 50 tons at best. “It takes ten days and three days at the border, which costs fuel and salaries. The Dnieper is 500 tons per day,” he added. The European Union is working hard in planning alternative routes. But Gajvoronski’s message is simple: Save the effort, none of it will work.
What is certainly not a solution at all, are the Russian missiles. “They are now focusing specifically on granaries. Then one hit is a whole year’s business away from Fermer.” This farmer firmly believes that the Russians are doing this on purpose in order to destroy the economic fabric of Ukraine.
“They can shoot innocent civilians. But they are no match for our military,” every now and then anger overcomes depression in this fat farmer with spectacles. But he does not show his desperation to his employees. He patted the driver cheerfully on the shoulder: “You are the heroes of Ukraine, harvest without fear of missiles.”
High prices for fuel and seeds, plus zero income, mean that Gajvoronski no longer has any hryvnia in his account. How to plant this fall? He has no idea. “This will lead to a crisis, and hunger as well,” he sighs.
Whoever says hunger in Ukraine refers to the great famine. The Great Famine is the organized famine of 1932 and 1933, in which approximately 4 to 5 million people died among the rural population. Soviet leaders confiscated grain in the villages to feed the new working class and exported it for currency. Hunger was also used to force disobedient peasants into submission to the new chiefs. Hunger often leads to cannibalism.
Gajvoronski is an hour’s drive south of the large industrial city of Dnipro, where there is a small Holodomor Museum. It is literally one room with many branches and dry roots, examples of what people tried to eat in those days. The coordinator, Oleksandr Sohumlin, sees strong parallels with the past and the present: “The Russians use exactly the same methods. First, they occupy and hold a referendum. And if that doesn’t work, they rob the population and then deport them.”
Almost a century later, Ukrainians will not go hungry, but this grain crisis is likely to affect the peoples of East Africa and the Middle East. If nothing happens soon. Jagvoronsky also usually exports his beans to Africa.
Putin again discussed the transport of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea with Turkish President Erdogan last week when they met in Tehran. But no solution appeared.
Putin has already promised to increase Russia’s grain exports, from 30 million tons of grain to 50 million. This makes Ukrainians even more angry. According to them, suddenly Russian production could not have increased so quickly, and an additional 20 million tons were stolen from Ukrainian farmers in the occupied territories.
It remains to be seen whether Gajvoronski’s arable farm export solution will come in time: “The future of my company is very dark and bleak. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. As it is now, we will go bankrupt.”
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