Agricuture in Ukraine

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Barley has been the top feed grain in Ukraine for most of the past ten years in terms of consumption, surpassing wheat in the early 1990's. Spring barley accounts for over 90 percent of barley area, and the main production region is eastern Ukraine. Spring barley is typically planted in April and harvested in August, and is the crop most frequently used for spring reseeding of damaged or destro

yed winter-grain fields. Area is inversely related, to some degree, to winter wheat area. Winter barley is the least cold-tolerant of the winter grains, and production is limited to the extreme south. The increasing demand for malt from the brewing industry has led to a jump in malting barley production and the import of high-quality planting seed from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, and France. Consumption of barley for malting purposes has surpassed 300,000 tons, but still accounts for only 5 percent of total barley consumption.

Increased production -- specifically, three bumper harvests since 2001 -- and diminishing domestic demand for feed grains have contributed to a jump in Ukrainian wheat and barley exports. The boom in exports was fueled also by relatively low production costs and the reduction or elimination of price controls and export restrictions in 1994. Most exports go to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. (See attaché reports: Grain and Feed Annual, April 2004, and How is Ukrainian Grain Competitive?, August 2002.)

Corn is the third important feed grain in Ukraine. Planted area has increased despite several impediments: obsolete and inadequate harvesting equipment, high cost of production (specifically post-harvest drying expenses), and pilferage. The main production region is eastern and southern Ukraine, although precipitation amounts in some oblasts in the extreme south are too low to support corn production. Corn is typically planted in late April or early May. Harvest begins in late September and is usually nearing completion by early November. Only 25 to 50 percent of total corn area is harvested for grain; the rest is cut for silage, usually in August. (The USDA corn estimates refer to corn for grain only.) Corn is used chiefly for poultry and swine feed, and production and consumption have risen since 2000 concurrent with a rebound in poultry inventories. Russia and Belarus are the chief destinations for Ukrainian corn exports.

Sunflowerseed is Ukraine's chief oilseed crop. Production is concentrated in the southern and eastern oblasts. Sunflowers are typically planted in April and harvested from mid-September to mid-October. Because of a combination of high price, relatively low cost of production, and traditionally high demand, sunflowerseed has become one of the most consistently profitable crops. (See Sunflowerseed Production in Russia and Ukraine, June 2004.) Its high profitability fueled a significant expansion in planted area beginning in the late 1990's. Many farmers in Ukraine abandoned the traditional crop-rotation practices recommended by agricultural officials which called for planting sunflowers no more than once every seven years in the same field. The aim of the 1-in-7 rotation is to prevent soil-borne fungal diseases and reduce the depletion of soil moisture and fertility. (Because of their deep rooting system, sunflowers reportedly extract higher amounts of water and nutrients from the soil than do other crops in the rotation.)

Sugar beets are grown primarily in central and western Ukraine. Beets are planted in late April and early May and harvested from mid-September through the end of October. Production has been on the decline since the early 1990's due chiefly to low profitability compared to grains and sunflowerseed. Between 1994 and 2003, planted area declined by 50 percent to less than 0.8 million hectares, and production from 28.1 to 13.4 million tons. Large farms are sometimes encouraged by the local administrators to plant sugar beets not so much to make money but rather to provide a social safety net or to supplement to pensioners or farm workers. A family may be responsible for weeding a specific section of a field and the workers in turn receive 20 percent of the sugar processed from the beets harvested from its section. Sugar also frequently serves as part of farm workers’ salaries.

On private household plots, meanwhile, sugar beet area has increased. Sugar beet production requires a significant amount of hand labor and remains a viable option for small household farms with limited access to agricultural machinery. Household plots now account for approximately 25 percent of Ukrainian sugar beet output compared to only 3 percent in 2005.

Farms in Ukraine employ a variety of crop-rotation schemes, some including four or more crops, some only two. A six-year crop rotation in the winter grain region will often include two consecutive years of wheat and one season of "clean fallow," during which no crop is sown. The chief reason for including fallow in the rotation is to replenish soil-moisture reserves, and it is more widely used in southern eastern Ukraine where drought is not uncommon. A typical crop sequence might be: fallow, winter wheat, winter wheat, sunflowers, spring barley, and corn. Wheat almost always follows fallow. According to farm directors, this enables the wheat -- which is typically the priority crop -- to benefit from the reduced weed infestation. (Fields are cultivated several times during the fallow season.). Some crop rotations include several consecutive years of a forage crop. An example of such a rotation would be: fallow, two years of winter wheat, and four years of perennial forage. The perennial forage is usually alfalfa; farmers will get three to four cuttings per year, five if the crop is irrigated. In southern Ukraine, clean fallow is frequently omitted and a crop rotation will likely include sugar beets and/or sunflower, the region's chief industrial crops. A typical seven-year rotation might be: winter wheat, winter barley, sugar beets, winter wheat, winter barley, sunflowers, and corn. The vast majority of field crops, including grains, sunflowers, and sugar beets, are not irrigated. Traditionally, irrigation is used only on forage crops and vegetables. Roughly 5 percent of grains and 10 percent of potatoes, vegetables, and forage crops are irrigated.

3. Agriculture machinery

According to various resources, an immediate demand to replenish the physically depreciated farm and processing equipment in Ukraine is estimated at $5-10 billion, with an annual supply of $1-2 billion worth of farm equipment.

Experts estimate the current level of physical depreciation of agricultural machinery and equipment at 70-80 percent, compared to 55-60 percent in 1999. Approximately 40 percent of tractors are 15-25 years old. The need to replace basic farm machinery is becoming critical.

There are about 40 manufacturers of agricultural machinery in Ukraine, which still supply a significant part of Ukraine agricultural machinery, in particular, ploughs, harrows, cultivators, seeders and sprayers. Production facilities at most agricultural machinery plants are currently being utilized at levels ranging from 15 to 30 percent. The price of domestically produced agricultural machinery is not cheap, because of inefficient and outdated manufacturing technologies. All this makes local machinery less attractive for agricultural companies.

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