A very wet spring and a dry summer have resulted in a delay of the planting season and a lower yield of the potatoes. Nick Gordiichuk, Vice-President of the Ukrainian Potato Growers Association and Managing Director of Agrico Ukraine, states that it’s been rough, dealing with these weather conditions ahead of the Ukrainian potato season:
“We had very wet spring this year, which means that planting of potatoes was delayed by two or even three weeks in some areas in Ukraine. On top of that, we had a very dry June and partially dry July, which didn’t contribute to both the yield and quality. Farmers had lots of problems with weeds, usage of herbicide. In August, we had a few weeks where the temperature hit 30-35 degrees Celsius, and these temperatures stayed for a week or so.”
Despite these challenges with the weather, Gordiichuk feels that it can still be a positive season for certain regions in Ukraine. “The season has been good for farmers in Western Ukraine, Lviv, Ternopil, Volyn, where farmers get regular precipitation during the growing period. Some varieties performed really well with yields up to 45-50 tons per hectare without the use of irrigation. Keep in mind that only 10 to 12 per cent of the area under potatoes is irrigated.”
Naturally, the war with Russia has left its mark on the Ukrainian potato season as well. Gordiichuk emphasizes that the war has caused Ukrainians to flee the country, automatically decreasing the potential of the domestic consumer market: “The war in Ukraine has influenced farmers in every possible way it could. First, there’s the market, Over six million people have left Ukraine, mainly women and children, which simply means that the consumers market in Ukraine has decreased. This in turn has also resulted in lower consumption of crisps and chips, while processors are decreasing their orders from growers.”
Gordiichuk also acknowledges that input costs have increased, while some farmers are still de-mining their potato fields. “When looking at growing and farming potatoes, the logistics of the operations have become very expensive. The same goes for all the input supplies, such as fertiliser, crop protection chemicals and seeds, all of these have had their prices increase, on average by 40 per cent compared to the previous season. Of course, many farms in de-occupied territories have problems with cleaning their fields from mines and rocket fragments.”
“However, the areas under potatoes did not decrease. Farmers continue to grow potatoes in the same area, because they have the machines and people who are involved in potato production. In villages, the potato is a ‘social crop’, as it provides work to many people in the rural area. The potato yield will be higher this season compared to last season, which will definitely will impact the price in negative way.”
The Moldovan market has been important for potato export ever since the war started. Gordiichuk is not sure if Moldova is acting as a hub to export the Ukrainian potatoes to other markets: “After the Russian invasion, the main export market for Ukrainian potatoes has been Moldova. Some people speculate that maybe potatoes go to the EU via Moldova, but there is no proof of this. Even this season, exporters are already started exporting potatoes from Ukraine to Moldova, with the price starting at 160-170 Euro per ton. But the market is very volatile when it comes to prices.”
Prices for potatoes are low at the moment and they could go even lower, Gordiichuk explains. “We do see a trend for the potato prices. The price started at 1.20 Euro per kg of early potatoes in June and slipped down to 0.16 Euro/kg off the farm. At the same time we see deficit of quality potatoes. That’s why supermarkets are offering a better price for good quality potatoes on the level 0.18-0.20 Euro per kg. Because we see that there will be excess potatoes on the market during Sept- October, with no option to export. This could mean that the prices might even go lower. The prices might increase in January or February of 2024, but this is uncertain,” he concludes.