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How Has the Ukraine War Affected Agriculture in Europe?

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In this interconnected world, a war ruins not only the countries involved but also those that are dependent on the resources that they provide. An entire continent is suffering due to the war between Ukraine and Russia. The effects of the war on agriculture in Europe have been substantially devastating. All sectors of Ukrainian agriculture are being impacted by Russia's war in the country, which is also hurting Russian exports.

Ukraine, formerly renowned as the 'breadbasket' Of Europe, is now entirely displaced, with several farmers leaving their fields to fight for their country against Russia, some even accompanied by their agricultural vehicles.

Both the Ukraine and Russia are agricultural giants and are responsible for substantial contributions to the world's supply of maise, wheat, corn, fertiliser, sunflower oil and oilseeds. Because of the war, there are fears of a global food crisis which needs to be addressed at the earliest.

Global Food Shortages

Before the war began, Ukraine was set to export over 23 million tonnes of wheat, 33 million tonnes of corn and over 60 million tonnes of grain. However, the sudden war ceased exports and the Ukraine couldn't meet this target leaving several countries with a limited supply of these basic commodities.

Ukraine's wheat exports are now projected to come down by 4 million tonnes, whereas Russia's crop exports are expected to drop by 3 million tonnes.

More than three-quarters of the land in Ukraine is used for agricultural purposes; the highly fertile black soil in Southeast Ukraine is ideal for wheat cultivation and has suffered the most at the hands of shelling and missiles.

It is not just Ukraine suffering from the global food shortage, but the effects are being felt from Estonia to Egypt.

Effects of War on Agriculture in Europe

Since the global shortage of food is on the rise, countries all over the world are looking to utilise their own resources in order to compensate for the scarce imports. Most of the world's agricultural products are exported from Europe, with Russia responsible for a 3rd of fertilisers used in the EU and Ukraine responsible for over half of Europe's corn. The effects of the war, supply chain problems and sanctions on Russia, all are negatively impacting agricultural efforts in Europe and in turn farmers are facing several problems, most importantly the increase in prices.

The four F's

The significant impact of the war has severely affected the farmers and has left them with a scarcity of the four F's needed for efficient agriculture;

1. Fertiliser

As we read above, Russia accounts for a 3rd of the fertiliser in EU countries; however, due to the strict sanctions, there has been a serious demand and supply issue. Specialised fertilisers that contain phosphate, potash and nitrogen are widely exported from Russia. Moreover, the rising prices of gas have also affected Europe's own production of nitrogen fertiliser; since it necessitates the use of fuel. This has also led to increased fertiliser costs reducing its affordability for farmers.

Additionally, Italian farmers getting ready to plant sunflowers, tomatoes, corn and soy this spring are facing a significant reduction in the supply of fertilisers. Fertiliser shortages are also likely to affect the plantation of durum wheat and soft wheat this spring season.

2. Feed

The war has caused a surge in the prices of feed which has led several farmers, specifically in Ireland, to reduce their livestock. The farmers have been protesting against the price hikes and demanding government grants to save the pig livestock in Ireland, which is worth over a billion Euros in exports.

Farmers have never faced such dire circumstances and losses, leaving them with extreme cash flow problems.

The war also led to a huge fall in demand from the biggest importer of pigs, China, leading to further losses and a reduction in sales.

The scarcity of fertiliser has also led to a drop in the production of animal feed since most of the livestock at farms feeds on grass. The greatest impact of this is faced by Ireland's beef farmers, who are facing difficulty in growing the feed due to a lack of nitrogen-rich fertiliser along with feed costs three times higher than before.

3. Fuel

Sanctions imposed on Russia include all petroleum products as well as crude oil shipped from Russia. The only commodity spared is the crude oil supplied from pipelines to EU countries, leaving them with scarce and costly fuel. This has resulted in inflation and high market prices all across Europe and the impacts of this can be felt in every industry and sector, specifically the agricultural sector.

Expensive fuel has led to a scarcity of bread and butter, which are the basic human necessities and the EU must take serious actions to protect the farmers and the rest of the population.

4. Finance

Since all farmers and agricultural industries are facing cash flow problems, the only way to counter it is to take loans from the bank. However, banks are not willing to finance farmers for almost 18 months of unforeseen losses, leaving them helpless.

Farmers have now turned to the government to help them with financing so they can keep their businesses, agriculture and livestock afloat.

European Council's Strategy to Overcome the Impacts

With the growing concerns faced by European agriculture, the council addressed the farmers regarding food security and how the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is fully equipped to absorb any disturbances regarding food scarcity. The CAP is also going to provide financial assistance to European farmers to help them stay afloat during this crisis.

The only way to move forward from this crisis is to look for alternatives outside of Russia and Ukraine. European countries will have to focus on creating alternative methods of energy, fuel, fertiliser and feed and meet the demand for wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other important commodities through their own resources.

The only silver lining here is the rise in agricultural jobs in Europe, specifically in the UK.

If you would like to contribute to reducing global food shortages by working in the agricultural sector, contact us here and we will find the ideal job for you that will be both gratifying and satisfactory. It really is our aim - to find you the perfect job.