NBC NEWS, KYIV, Ukraine — Dmitriy Skornyakov is the CEO of Harvest Holdings, one of the largest agriculture firms in Ukraine. Or at least he was, before Russia invaded the country often called “Europe’s breadbasket.”
Harvest Holdings possessed almost 500,000 acres of Ukrainian farmland in 2014.
They had some smaller fields near Kyiv and owned huge swaths of land around Mariupol and in the eastern Donbas region that is now the focus of the war.
The majority of that land is now inaccessible: About 20,000 acres close to the capital are covered in Russian landmines, and nearly 350,000 acres in the country’s east are occupied by the Kremlin’s forces.
Farmers across this country are unable to sow their land, missing a critical planting window while also struggling to ship harvested crops out due to a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s critical Black Sea ports.
“The consequences of these shameful acts are there for everyone to see. Global wheat prices are skyrocketing. And it is the fragile countries and vulnerable populations that suffer most.” – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
Meanwhile, a gas crisis and ongoing tank and artillery battles makes it a challenge to simply maintain the little land they have left.
“We’re not talking about profit anymore,” said Skornyakov, who added that his company had also tracked farm equipment stolen by Russian forces via GPS to mainland Russia and annexed Crimea. “We’re talking about survival.”
Ukrainian farmers now have an estimated 22 million metric tons of grain stuck in storehouses.
Their race to plant new crops while also shipping this vast contribution to global food supplies has become a matter of urgency for officials from Europe to Africa, fearing that Russia may not just have struck at the heart of Ukraine’s economy but might be weaponizing food to help fuel a worldwide hunger crisis.
With few good solutions — one option put forward appears to be a risky naval escort — the United States and its allies have sought to make it clear who they feel is responsible.
Accusing Russia of “blackmail,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this week that the Kremlin was holding back its own supplies of grain after attacking Ukrainian storage facilities and seizing stocks, all while blockading the country’s ports … READ MORE.