I n 2001 olena nazarenko’s father started farming in Lukashivka, a small village about 100km north of Kyiv, with three cows and a horse called Rosa (”Dew” in Ukrainian). In 2020 Mrs Nazarenko and her husband Andriy inherited the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) farm, now named Rosa after that founding horse. Early this year they took out a substantial loan to cover fertiliser for the coming spring-wheat crop.
On March 9th, well before they had planted any, Russian troops occupied the village and the couple fled. On March 31st, when the invaders had turned tail, they returned. It was a harsh homecoming. The main farm building was shelled out. Three tractors had been vandalised and their diesel drained. Of their 117 cows, 42 were dead and the rest were roaming fields littered with debris, mines, mortar shells, unexploded cluster bombs and burnt-out trucks. Fifty tonnes of wheat, sunflower seed and rye had been destroyed, costing them tens of thousands of dollars. “We have no money left,” says Mrs Nazarenko. “We have nothing to pay salaries and are struggling to pay interest on the loan.”
Lukashivka and the villages around it have seen thousands of tonnes of grain destroyed or left to rot; much the same is true throughout the country’s war zones. Russian forces have targeted grain elevators and fertiliser plants, leaving the infrastructure in pieces. The share of last year’s grain harvest still in the country—about 25m tonnes of grain, a lot of it maize (corn)—is stuck there, because Odessa’s ports, through which 98% of the grain exports normally pass, are blockaded. Getting the grain to alternative ports in Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltics is hard. “Before the war Ukraine exported about 5m tonnes of grain a month,” says Mykola Solskiy, the minister for agriculture. “Last month we managed to get 1.1m tonnes out.”