Wessel de Jong
Wessel de Jong
Discouraged, Anatolii Gajvoronski looks at the covered black mountain from a few meters high. “All the sunflower seeds are here. And you have no sunflower oil,” says the farmer, who has a 2,300-acre business with rapeseed and wheat. And then sunflowers, which form jubilant rolling plains here in southern Ukraine.
The Russian navy is blocking the Black Sea, so Ukrainian grain – as well as sunflowers – cannot be exported. The Russians, in turn, accuse the Ukrainians of making navigation impossible by laying out naval mines.
What does he think of Turkey’s mediation efforts to persuade Putin to let the grain through? Gajvoronski would like to give an optimistic answer, but it does not succeed so well: “I have little hope that something will happen. Hopefully the UN will put pressure on Russia to let our ships with grain through. History tells that exports “Will return to normal in five months. But personally I do not believe in that. Negotiating with the Russians is a waste of time. You can make agreements with them. But they are still violating them.”
As the grain cannot be exported, all of Gajvoronski’s silos are filled to the brim with the latest harvest. Each barn is used as temporary storage for the new harvest. Therefore, the farmer is now taking a drastic action. The freshly harvested grain is dumped in the yard. Rolled-up plastic tarpaulins are ready for when it starts to rain.
It is not good for the quality? “A lot will be lost. But I have no other choice.” Gajvoronski hopes the army will quickly expel the Russians and liberate the ports so he can sell the grain before there is anything left of it.
And transport by road to Polish and Romanian ports? The despairing farmer raises both his arms in the air. A truck can at best carry about 40, 50 tons. “It takes 10 days and three days at the border, which costs fuel and wages. The Dnieper is 500 tons per day.” The European Union is working hard to plan alternative routes. But Gajvoronski’s message is simple: save the effort, none of it will work.
There is no solution at all for the Russian missiles. “They now focus specifically on grain silos. Then a blow is a whole year’s work away from a ‘farmer’.” This farmer is convinced that the Russians are doing this deliberately to destroy Ukraine’s economic structure.
“They can shoot innocent civilians. But they are no match for our army”, every now and then the anger beats depression in this fat farmer with photochromatic glasses. But he does not show his discouragement to his employees. He jovially pats a driver on the shoulder: “You are Ukraine’s heroes, harvest without fear of the missiles.”
The high prices of fuel and seeds plus zero income mean that this Gajvoronski no longer has any hryvna in his account. How is he going to look this fall? He has no idea. “This will lead to a crisis. And hunger too,” he sighs.
He who says hunger in Ukraine refers to Holodomor. Holodomor is the organized famine in the years 1932 and 1933, when about 4 to 5 million people died among the rural population. The Soviet leaders confiscated the grain in the villages to feed the new working class and export it for currency. Hunger was also used to force disobedient peasants to submit to the new leaders. Hunger often led to cannibalism.
Gajvoronski’s company is an hour’s drive south of the large industrial city of Dnipro, home to a tiny Holodomor museum. It is literally one room with many dried branches and roots, as examples of what people were trying to eat back then. Oleksandr Suhomlyn, curator, sees strong parallels to then and now: “The Russians use exactly the same methods. First, occupy and hold a referendum. And if that doesn’t work, steal from the people and then deport them.”
Almost a century later, it is not the Ukrainians who will starve, but this grain crisis is likely to affect the people of East Africa and the Middle East. If nothing happens soon. Gajvoronski would also normally export his grain to Africa.
Putin again discussed the transport of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea with Turkish President Erdogan last week when they met in Tehran. But no solution has been found.
Putin promised to increase Russian grain exports from 30 million tons of grain to 50 million. It makes the Ukrainians extra furious. According to them, Russian production may not have suddenly increased so rapidly and that an additional 20 million tons have been stolen from Ukrainian farmers in occupied territory.
Whether there will be a solution to the export for field farmer Gajvoronski in time must be revealed: “The future of my business is dark, very dark. We do not know what will happen tomorrow. As it looks now, we will go bankrupt. “