According to a report from the Kyiv School of Economics, Ukraine’s farming industry has been severely damaged during the past year of fighting with Russia, with staple crops such as maize, oats, rapeseed, and rye not expected to recover to previous production levels until at least 2050. Other sectors such as barley, sunflower, and wheat are meanwhile not expected to recover to pre-war levels until 2040.
This means that it may take as long as 20 years for Ukraine to regain its strength in agriculture after the devastation brought by the Russian military assault,” the report said.
The report found that the total damage to the Ukrainian agricultural sector was $9 billion as of April or more than 26 per cent of its physical assets. They noted that this came in large part as a result of naval blockades imposed by the Russians on the Black Sea in the initial phases of the war, forcing many crops to rot rather than being sent abroad.
Before the war, the report claims, approximately 33 million hectares of Ukrainian land were devoted to the cultivation of grand and oilseeds. Last year, following the invasion, this had declined to 25 million hectares, a figure that is expected to further decline without an end to the conflict.
Calculations made by the school on the assumption that the war would conclude before the sowing of winter crops this year, the amount of land used in agriculture would partially be restored by the end of the decade and hit 37 million hectares by 2050.
The continued struggles for the Ukrainian farming sector will likely have impacts further afield, with Ukraine previously accounting for 10 per cent of global wheat exports, 15 per cent of barley and corn, and over 50 per cent of sunflower oil.
The study was also conducted prior to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Southern Ukraine near Kherson earlier this month, which threatens to turn one of the most productive farming regions in the country into effective deserts due to irrigation systems no longer having the necessary water levels to irrigate the farmlands.
“The destruction of the [Kakhovka dam] will lead to the fact that the fields in the south of Ukraine may turn into deserts as early as next year,” Ukraine’s agricultural ministry said earlier this month, warning that the impact of the destruction of the dam could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The ministry said this week that 600,000 hectares of agricultural land no longer have access to irrigation systems in the wake of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.
In total, Ukraine harvested some 106 million tonnes of grain and oilseed in 2021, however, according to the ministry, this year production could fall to as low as 65 million tonnes.
The struggles of the Ukrainian farming sector have already had a significant impact on global food prices, with the war playing a large role in sending some 345 million people into high levels of food insecurity in 2023, more than double that seen in 2020, accordingto the World Food Programme.