Ukraine – a world-beating grain producer

Arguably the best place in the world to grow grain crops, Ukraine’s potential to help feed the world is increasing all the time. 

Around 70% of Ukraine’s land area of 603,000 square kilometres is devoted to agriculture, with more than 55% of land used for arable production. And it is not just any old arable land, but some of the finest in the world. Nearly 60% of its arable land is the much-prized ‘black soil’ or Chernozem, that contains a high percentage of humus or broken-down plant-material (up to 15% in some cases) and essential plant nutrients such as phosphoric acid, phosphorous and ammonia.

Pockets of this soil occur in a number of countries, but Ukraine is home to 30% of the world’s black soils, making it the ideal location to grow a large range of crops, including wheat, barley, corn, sugar beet, sunflower, soya beans and rapeseed. Dairy and meat production is also increasingly important.

OSR, West, Lvivska district, TOV Agro LV Limited
OSR, West, Lvivska district, TOV Agro LV Limited

Ukraine is the sixth largest producer of corn, growing 39 million tonnes a year. It is also the seventh largest producer of wheat in the world, growing around 27 million tonnes a year. It is the world’s largest grower of sunflowers, regularly producing more than 10 million tonnes a year and it is a top ten producer of sugar beet, barley, soya and rapeseed.

There are 45 million Ukrainians and the country produces much more food than it needs to feed itself and is a major exporter of a wide range of crops. Improvements in production and logistics and new trade links and agreements, including an association agreement with the European Union, have helped increase Ukrainian exports. The country’s location on the Black Sea, also allows it to ship grain to major European, Asian and African markets. In 2016 Ukraine exported more than 40 million tonnes of grain, according to consultants UkrAgroConsult and they added there is the potential for the Ukraine to export 20 million tonnes of corn a year.

WW, South, Odeska district, Topalov V.Z.
WW, South, Odeska district, Topalov V.Z.

Ukraine’s standing as a major agricultural producer is being driven by better performance. The average wheat yield is 4 tonnes/hectare, up a third on 20 years ago, while corn yields have increased by 150% to more than 6 tonnes/hectare. Greater use of modern fertiliser and crop protection products are helping protect crops and deliver those higher yields. More than 40% of Ukraine’s farmland is cultivated by farms that are more than 500 hectares, with farms of 2,500 hectares or more not uncommon. This compares with an average EU farm size of just 17 hectares.

Now established as a major crop player, the Ukraine’s agricultural potential is strong. There is currently the equivalent of 0.7 hectares of arable land per person in Ukraine. That is high, and compares with 0.5ha/person in the USA, 0.15ha/person in Germany, 0.08ha/person in China and just 0.03ha/person in Egypt. The growth of Ukraine’s agricultural industry is helping to transform the country, providing funding for improved rural roads, infrastructure, schools and village life. With the world’s demand for food continuing to increase and few countries with so many natural advantages, Ukraine’s place as a major world agricultural power is only set to strengthen.

WW, East, Poltavska district, TOV Rost Agro
WW, East, Poltavska district, TOV Rost Agro

Ukraine farming facts

  • More than two thirds of the Ukraine can produce crops or livestock
  • The Ukraine is the worlds’ largest sunflower producer
  • Nearly a third of world’s coveted black soil is in the Ukraine
  • The Ukraine exports more than 30 million tonnes of grain a year
  • Ukrainian Corn yields have increased 150% in the last 20 years
  • Europe’s two largest farms – Ukrlandfarming at 654,000 hectares and Kernel at 615,000 hectares – are in Ukraine. Both are integrated holdings focusing on egg and sunflower production
Sugar beet, West, Rivnenska district, TOV Agroexpresservice
Sugar beet, West, Rivnenska district, TOV Agroexpresservice
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