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The Ukrainian wheat harvest is in limbo

#Ukrainian #wheat #harvest #limbo

Farmer Sergiy Lyubarsky stands in one of his vast wheat fields in war-torn southeast Ukraine and wonders how on earth he’s going to manage to harvest his crops.

Given the lack of fuel for his combine and the risk of being bombed, the odds seem slim.

“Usually the harvest is supposed to start around July 15, but diesel is expensive and there is none anyway,” he says.

His old combine sits idle in his yard in the village of Rai Oleksandrivka, not far from the Russian positions on the other side of the hill, about 30 kilometers west of the city of Lugansk.

Lyubarsky farms 170 hectares of land and produces mostly wheat, but also barley and sunflowers – grains whose prices have skyrocketed in international markets, especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a key global wheat producer.

But he had to leave 40 hectares fallow.

“We couldn’t buy corn seed because the war started,” he says, and it took up to two months for the imported seed to arrive.

Now the uncultivated land “is partly used by the army to store military equipment,” he adds.

Pointing to the nearby hill, he says grimly: “Look, there are already Russian soldiers over there, eight kilometers” as the crow flies.

Time is short for his wheat.

“We can wait until August 10 at most, but after that the grains will dry up and fall to the ground,” he says.

He holds an ear of corn in his hand to make the grain fall to demonstrate what happens if it is not harvested on time.

– ‘One match is enough’ –

For fellow farmer Anatoliy Moiseyenko from the same village, the situation is just as uncertain.

Although he has enough diesel to harvest his wheat, he worries about the approaching battle.

“The problem is the war. Will it be possible or will rockets fall again?” he asks, watching as Ukrainian soldiers pick up a missile warhead that recently fell in his field.

Harvesting “is a bit like playing poker,” he says with a grin.

In the neighboring village of Riznikivka, Yaroslav Kokhan knows that his 40 hectares of wheat are already gone.

Normally, he says, his son does the harvesting because the retired 61-year-old doesn’t use a tractor or combine harvester.

His son moved to Krasnodar in southern Russia in 2014, the year Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine after a popular uprising in Kyiv.

He used to come back by car several times a year to sow the wheat, pull the weeds, and then harvest, says Kokhan.

This year, however, “he was supposed to return to Ukraine on February 25, his birthday, but the day before that war broke out,” he adds.

He’s not coming now, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to return to his family in Russia, because Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country because of military service.

So what becomes of his wheat?

“I think one match is enough,” says Kokhan sadly, looking at the field behind his house.

More optimistically, Lyubarsky still hopes he can harvest his wheat and is already thinking about his sunflowers, which are due to be harvested in September.

“Until then, I hope we live in peace!”.

Social Tags:
#Ukrainian #wheat #harvest #limbo

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