Ukraine’s frontline farmers face Russian rockets and rock-bottom prices

By Vladyslav Smilianets

VELYKOMYKHAILIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Less than 30 km (19 miles) from Ukraine’s southeastern front line, rural farmers whose businesses have survived Russian rockets now fear another hammer blow to their livelihoods: rock-bottom prices for their harvest.

Mykola, a 63-year-old farmer in Dnipropetrovsk region, told Reuters on Tuesday he had to keep his crops in a missile-damaged storage site because he could not afford to spend money fixing it in case it was wrecked again by another rocket.

And yet, he is not rushing to sell.

“The price (for crops) is not acceptable for the farmers. We will store them and see what is going to happen. To restore the storage one has to have funds. With the current price for our grain it is not realistic to restore it.”

The price which Ukrainian farmers receive from traders for their produce plunged to painful lows in July, when Moscow abandoned a UN-brokered deal that allowed agricultural exports from Ukraine to be safely shipped via the Black Sea.

With that route now closed, farmers all over Ukraine, one of the world’s largest growers of wheat and sunflowers, face a losing battle to get their produce out through land and river, routes that can only take a fraction of normal export volumes.

The farmers of Velykomykhailivka must juggle their worries about collapsing prices and export difficulties with the prospect of more Russian missiles crashing into their farms.

“It took more than 20 years to build this. It was destroyed in one day,” 60-year-old Valeriy Krut said mournfully of his business, where a missile attack last year destroyed 200 tons of grain and 14 vehicles.

“This is the question: throw it all away or to maybe try to hold on? We won’t have any profit this year with such storages and crop prices.”

(Reporting by Vladyslav Smilianets; Writing by Max Hunder; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Conor Humphries)