Ukrainian Farmers Forge Ahead with Dairy Investments Amidst Conflict

Photo by Carolien van Oijen on Unsplash

Optimism in the Dairy Sector

Despite the ongoing conflict with Russia, Ukrainian farmers are showing resilience by investing in the dairy industry on lands spared from occupation. Andriy Dykun, the president of the Association of Milk Producers of Ukraine, has highlighted this burgeoning commitment to dairy production in areas that remain under Ukrainian control.

The war has significantly disrupted traditional export routes for Ukrainian dairy heifers, particularly through the Black Sea, which is currently inaccessible. Dykun revealed at the Australian Dairy Conference in Melbourne that alternative paths via Romania or Bulgaria are also fraught with delays due to lengthy processes for obtaining veterinary certificates.

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With grain exports also facing hurdles, Dykun emphasized the need for Ukrainian farmers to ‘add value’ by focusing on milk production. The strategy seems to be paying off, as 2023 witnessed a 15% increase in milk yields, bringing production back to the pre-war figure of three million tonnes, despite the loss of 50,000 dairy cows and 100 dairy farms.

The agricultural sector, particularly dairy, has been a stalwart of the Ukrainian economy, boasting a production volume that surpassed Australia’s before the conflict began. Dykun sees ‘enormous potential’ in the sector, which he describes as the economy’s ‘backbone’.

One of the most significant challenges facing Ukrainian agriculture during wartime is the widespread presence of landmines, with over two million hectares affected. This includes thousands of fields that are now hazardous zones. Dykun shared distressing footage at the conference, including the devastation of a large dairy farm in the Kharkiv region, which lost 30% of its herd to the occupation.

The war’s impact on agriculture has been profound, yet the sector’s determination to survive and thrive is evident in these strategic investments in dairy. Dykun, who also chairs the Ukrainian Agri Council, has previously discussed the broader effects of the conflict on agricultural production, underscoring the industry’s adaptability and fortitude.

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