Seed World

Working in War Conditions

Impact of the Ukraine war on the seed sector

Before the 24th of February, we had many ambitious plans as a company for 2022; it was only the beginning of the year. But today, people and their safety are the main priorities for Bayer. Since the beginning of the war, we have tried to keep our people safe and support them and their families as much as possible. I hope that soon Ukraine will be able to return to normal life. This is the first thing I want to wish all Ukrainians, brave and invincible people. But for now, we must work in the war conditions.

Adapt quickly

We did not have a complete stop and started to return to our business activities in March — firstly, in places where there was no danger to employees. Learning to respond promptly to the war-related changes was critical. We continued to supply corn seeds, import crop protection products while diversifying the supply routes of our products. In the short term, our team found and rented a warehouse in the West of Ukraine, which started functioning in a record-breaking three weeks. There was also great co-operation and support within industry to ensure that products reach farmers before sowing starts. For example, at one point when our own warehouse was locked down, one of our distributors allowed us to use their warehouse as a staging point for deliveries. We also saw the authorities being willing to expedite import procedures to get products into the country.

Importance of Ukraine

Immediately after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine started, world prices for wheat increased by almost 30 per cent, for corn by 20 per cent. It demonstrated how important Ukraine is in the production of agricultural commodities and how big is its influence. Ukrainian farmers have substantial challenges with exporting their grain outside of the country, though we have cautious optimism that the situation will improve. In the meantime, we are thinking about how we can give our farmers an additional sense of security, by offering more favourable business conditions. Despite the dangers and risks, Ukrainian farmers continued to sow and now start to harvest their fields.

Sowing under difficult conditions

The war extremely impacted agriculture. Ukraine went through the most challenging sowing campaign in history: from the difficulties because of mined fields to the shortage of fuel and the reduced teams, as many joined the armed forces. All of us, across Bayer are in awe of Ukrainian farmers who, whenever possible, did not slow down nor give up innovative approaches to growing crops with their profound knowledge of their fields. They know how to grow more with less. The world needs ag products from Ukraine, and Ukrainian farmers are able to produce them.

Impact of the war

How did this war impact us? As a business, we are doing what we can: we managed to deliver most corn seeds before the war started and gradually resumed import of crop protection products. Though we also face certain challenges. Many of our employees had to leave their homes and relocate either to the Western part of Ukraine or even abroad. Thirty of our employees serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and we support them by paying their regular salaries. Unfortunately, the work of our demonstration fields (AgroArenas) in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country was stopped because of military actions. Although most employees were able to leave to the safer territories, some of the remaining equipment was destroyed during the shelling. Today we are proud of our people: three other AgroArenas are working and demonstrating our innovative products to farmers even during wartime.

Strong support

To support Ukrainian agriculture, Bayer donated more than 26,000 bags of corn seeds and 2,000 bags of winter oil seed rape seeds to 1,250 small farmers in 17 regions. The total value of donations that the company provided to support Ukraine is more than EUR 10 mln, including medicines and seed supplies, donations to Red Cross and local charities. And, most recently, Bayer supported an initiative on demining by donating to the non-profit “Fondation suisse de déminage” to purchase a mine clearance machine. Since the beginning of the war, large areas of land have been contaminated with landmines and unexploded or abandoned munitions. A donation of 825,000 euros will be dedicated to purchasing a large-size mechanical mine clearance machine.

I believe our contribution will ensure farmers’ safer fieldwork and secure the upcoming harvest without risking lives.

While we face much uncertainty in the short term, we keep feeling strong about the future. Our work is a good indication about how committed we are towards this country. We see our future here and continue to invest in Ukraine. We believe that agrarian business in Ukraine is strong, and farmers have what it takes to rebound after the war.

Laercio Bortolini

Editor’s Note: Laercio Bortolini is Country Division Head of Crop Science Ukraine since October 2021.

Read More:

The War in Ukraine and the Consequences for Food Security

The Devastation of Ukraine’s Yuriev Plant Production Institute

USDA and Ukraine Join Forces to Combat Global Food Insecurity

War in Ukraine Causes Seed Potato Sales Drop