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30% of Ukraine farmland impacted by war; USDA says corn crop to be cut by more than half

For Ukraine's three main export crops, sunflower production is forecast to be off by 37%, wheat production down by more than 35% and corn production off by 54%, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

Tractor in a wheat field
An aerial view shows a tractor spreading fertilizer on a wheat field near the village of Yakovlivka in Ukraine after it was hit by an aerial bombardment outside Kharkiv, on April 5, 2022.
Thomas Peter / Reuters
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WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s farmers are dodging holes left by craters but are making progress on spring planting.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine means about 30% of Ukraine's farmland won’t be planted this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday, May 12, as part of its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates .

This area includes farmland where the Russians have place landmines, where there are craters from bombs and areas with large amounts of debris related to the warfare. There also is a shortage of seeds, especially hybrid sunflower seed, and fuel to run machinery.

But evidence from satellite imagery and reporting by Ukraine’s ag ministry show work is getting done, USDA said.

Mark Jekanowski, chairman of the World Agricultural Outlook Board for USDA, described the Ukrainians as “clearly a resilient group of people.”

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“Despite all the challenges, fieldwork is continuing,” Jekanowski said.

For Ukraine's three main export crops, sunflower production is forecast to be off by 37%, wheat production down by more than 35% and corn production off by 54%.

Jekanowski said, that for sunflowers, “Ukraine typically relies pretty heavily on hybrid seeds from the West.” And there presumably has been very little hybrid seed coming into the country since the invasion began.

Wheat production in Ukraine is forecast at 21.5 million tons for 2022-23, 11.5 million lower than 2021-22 because of the ongoing war.

Ukraine’s 2022-23 export forecast is 10 million tons, down sharply from last year on reduced production and blockades and assaults on its port cities.

USDA used 2020 as a model because that year also meant very limited fertilizer availability because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fertilizer and other inputs are in short supply because of the war.

Jekanowski said making forecasts during a war in a major ag producing country is not something USDA has much experience with.

“Getting reliable information is tough, there is a lot of uncertainty,” Jekanowski said.

Related Topics: MARKETSUKRAINECROPS
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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