Skip to main content

Business

Russian landmines hamper Ukrainian farmers amid food crisis

Ukrainian farmers are among the principal victims of landmines left by retreating Russian forces, creating even more uncertainty as the world struggles with a food crisis resulting from a loss of exports from the fertile country

Training model of a Soviet-era TM-46 anti-tank mine
Training model of a Soviet-era TM-46 anti-tank mine | U.S. Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

May 3, 2022 8:38am

Updated: May 3, 2022 11:45am

Ukrainian farmers are among the principal victims of landmines left by retreating Russian forces, creating even more uncertainty as the world struggles with a food crisis resulting from a loss of exports from the fertile country.

Potato farmer Valeriy Zhivaga miraculously survived after driving his tractor over a Russian anti-tank mine while plowing his field on Wednesday. The explosion destroyed his tractor and rocked his village of Makovysche.

“There was this explosion, and I closed my eyes,” Zhivaga told The Times of London, who came away with just ringing ears and a bruised knee.

“I didn’t even have time to be scared.”

Mine clearance experts later found five other mines in the immediate area.

Others have not been as fortunate. Two weeks ago, a 42-year-old farmer near Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, was killed when his tractor ran over another landmine.

Known historically as the “bread basket of Europe,” Ukraine’s fertile soil makes it a key agricultural exporter. Ukrainian grains like wheat, corn and sunflower seeds are found in bread and flour around the world, and its importers have struggled to find them from other sources as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.

The European Union has accused Russia of worsening the global food crisis by destroying wheat stocks and preventing Ukrainian ships full of wheat from leaving its Black Sea ports. Russia produces 20% of the world’s wheat exports by weight in 2020/2021, while Ukraine produces 7%, including a fifth of the world’s high-grade wheat.

“There is nothing else to do but give the grain away to the army or as humanitarian aid. Ukraine, thankfully, will not starve,” Oleksandr Chumak, a trader in the port city of Odessa, told The Washington Post.

“But if we are talking about global food security, well, that is already a fragile system. Climate change, supply chain chaos, and now this war — in six months’ time, poor people will starve to death. I don’t think the world understands that yet. For their own sakes, movement of food through the Black Sea must be negotiated.”

Nearly 50 countries depend on Russian and Ukraine for more than 30% of their required wheat imports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Some, like Egypt and Turkey, source over 60% of their imported wheat from the two countries.