On the bleak and ominous Wednesday of May 17, 2023, a disturbing report by John Reidy has sent shockwaves through the world of agriculture. The UN vessel has been sighted unloading 23,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat in Djibouti on August 30, paving the way for a grave revelation – the plummeting projections of Ukraine’s corn and wheat exports. This perturbing information, as cited by the Ukrainian Grain Association (UGA), has come to light against the adversities of Russia’s never-ending invasion.
According to Nikolay Gorbachov, the President of UGA, the corn harvest might decline from 27.3 million tonnes of the previous season to a disconcerting figure of 21.1 million tonnes due to the reduced planted area. Correspondingly, corn exports may fall by a whopping 30%, plummeting from an anticipated 27 million tonnes in 2022-23 to a dwindling 19 million tonnes in 2023-24.
While speaking to Reuters at the GrainCom conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Gorbachov said, “The lower export forecast is due to a lower (crop) area, but also because we compare it to the high ones in the current campaign, when we had huge stocks.”
The miseries of Ukraine’s agriculture sector do not end here; wheat crop projections estimate a fall from 20.2 million tonnes to a forlorn figure of 17 million tonnes this year. The UGA President indicates that with this, potentially only 14 million tonnes might proceed with exports in the upcoming season, declining from 15.5 million in 2022-23.
However, amidst the gloom, there seems to be a ray of hope regarding oilseed production. Sunflower seed harvests might recover up to 20%, soaring to 12.65 million tonnes this year, while soybean output is anticipated to rise to 4.4 million tonnes from the 3.7 million tonnes harvested in 2022. Additionally, the UGA exhorts that rapeseed output might range at 3.7 million tonnes, slightly above the 3.64 million tonnes produced last year.
Ukraine, which stands among the significant exporters of corn and wheat to world markets, has been the most extensive supplier of sunflower oil, yet it has failed to maintain production levels and grain handling infrastructure as the war with Russia enters its 16th month.
However, the misery does not end there. On May 18, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which plays a vital role in facilitating the export of Ukrainian agricultural products, is set to expire, according to the United Nations. Efforts to extend it are ongoing, but Russia has raised objections, stating that it will not continue with the agreement until its demands are met to remove obstacles for its own grain and fertilizer exports. The UN reports how nearly 30 million tonnes of grain and foodstuffs have been exported from Ukraine under this agreement, with 600,000 tonnes extending to the World Food Programme’s aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.
Additionally, the European Union has been aiding agricultural exports for Ukraine via overland routes through Eastern European countries through solidarity lanes to other member states and third-party countries.