Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Farmers on their harvesters harvest barley in a field in Kharkiv, Ukraine on July 18.
Farmers on their harvesters harvest barley in a field in Kharkiv, Ukraine on July 18. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is putting $100 million into a new program to provide Ukrainian farmers with vital supplies in order to maintain future harvests and alleviate the global food security crisis that has been exasperated by Russia’s war on the country.

Some Ukrainian farms have turned into battlefields and farmers who have maintained their harvests have been unable to get machinery and other key supplies including fertilizer, seeds and storage bins that would typically arrive through Black Sea ports. Ukraine — the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat — has also been largely unable to export their agricultural products due to Russia’s invasion. 

The initiative will also include financing for farmers who are facing rising prices at a time their incomes have been severely hit.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has already been working with more than 8,000 Ukrainian farmers to get the inputs they need to bolster their yields and the new Ukraine Agriculture Resilience Initiative (AGRI-Ukraine) effort will expend those efforts. 

“AGRI-Ukraine will target Ukraine’s immediate agricultural export challenges, while also simultaneously supporting the wider needs of Ukraine’s agriculture sector and bolstering Ukraine’s continued production of agricultural commodities through 2023. The Initiative will increase Ukrainian farmers’ access to critical agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and pesticides, enhance Ukrainian infrastructure capacity and capability to efficiently export agricultural goods, increase farmers’ access to financing and expand the capacity of Ukrainian businesses to dry and temporarily store, and process agricultural commodities,” USAID said in a news release on Tuesday.

USAID will work with banks, credit unions and governments to get the Ukrainian farmers “sustained finance to continue operations” given the challenges of risings costs of transportation, labor and other inputs, explained a USAID spokesperson. 

“USAID will work to tailor storage to individual needs — working with farmer associations — to get the right solutions to the right places,” the spokesperson said, noting that farmers in eastern Ukraine won’t have the same needs as farmers on the western side of the country.

“In the east of Ukraine, farmers’ high transport costs may result in some seeking to store grain until safer/cheaper alternatives are available. In the west of the country, farmers may need storage prior to loading their harvest on trains going across the border to Poland or Slovakia,” the spokespersons said.

USAID will also be working to raise an additional $150 million from donors and the private sector to boost the fund.  

The efforts to salvage at least some of Ukraine’s agriculture sector are “critical for Ukraine’s stabilization, recovery, and reconstruction,” the spokesperson said.

Ukraine’s economy has already fallen into a recession due to the ongoing war, and the country’s GDP could almost half this year as a result of Russia’s invasion, the World Bank said in April. Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat and sunflower oil before the war, and this year’s planting season was disrupted by fighting. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has also warned that the ongoing crisis is only poised to get worse without efforts to bring relief.

Read more here.

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