Ukraine could become the first country in the world where the evolution of agriculture will be replaced by devolution. The war makes farms and large agricultural holdings inefficient. These enterprises use large capital, hired labor, complex machinery, large plots of land and work for export.
But war cannot destroy the private farms of the rural people. These farms have small plots of land, use manual labor, do not have employees, do not pay taxes and they work for the domestic market.
What’s happening with industrial agriculture
From the first day of hostilities, the situation in industrial agriculture has been deteriorating. So much is needed for industrial production that it is not possible during the war. For example, engineering infrastructure. Without complex and large structures, industrial agriculture is not possible. However, during the war, such property is very vulnerable. The last example is the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.1 The destruction of a waterworks left 1,235,526 acres of agricultural land without water. Now, this land will not be effectively used for growing plants. The timing of the restoration of the Kakhovka dam is not known. This can only happen after the end of the war.
Agricultural fields are the perfect place for fighting.
It is not surprising that during the 15 months of the war, 40 per cent of Ukraine’s agricultural land was decommissioned.2 Part of this land is in the war zone. There are fields that farmers can’t drive to because of the war. But most of the agricultural land is mined. In 2023, the Ukrainian authorities plan to clear 407,723 acres of agricultural land. An additional 753,671 acres of agricultural land will be cleared in 2024.3 However, de-mining may not solve the problem. According to eyewitnesses, even after de-mining agricultural machinery is undermined by mines.4
Another problem is the poor performance of the legislature. In Ukraine, 28 laws have been adopted that support agriculture.5 However, only one of these laws was passed after the start of the war and this single law does not take into account the outbreak of war. This law sets a new date for the entry into force of a law that was passed before the war.6 That is, since the beginning of the war, not a single law has been adopted that would improve the situation of Ukrainian agricultural producers in the long run. Only in May 2023, the Ukrainian government announced that a law would be adopted that would simplify the “re-registration of agricultural enterprises.”7 However, this is not enough to support farmers and agricultural holdings. Taxes have not been reduced. A farm enterprise can operate on a simplified or general taxation system.
A farmer who uses a simplified taxation system pays:
- 18 per cent income tax;
- 1.5 per cent military tax;
- 22 per cent single social contribution.
A farmer who uses the general taxation system pays:
- 18 per cent income tax;
- land tax (the amount depends on its quantity);
- 41.5bper cent tax on salaries of employees.
In both cases, VAT of 20 per cent may be charged!8
As you can see, taxes reach 40 -50 per cent of the profit. Various administrative restrictions also apply. For example, the government again restricted export of sugar. This was done in order to prevent a shortage of sugar in the domestic market.9 Perhaps this will help the population of Ukraine. But farmers can’t get a good profit. Exporting sugar is more profitable than selling it on the domestic market.
The domestic market of Ukraine is characterised by very unfavorable conditions. Gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles has doubled in price. The cost of fertilisers increased three times. But the price of some agricultural products, on the contrary, decreased. For example, wheat on the domestic market of Ukraine has fallen in price twice.10
As a result, farmers and agricultural holdings stop working. Due to the war, more than a quarter of agricultural enterprises in Ukraine completely stopped or reduced their work.10
In Ukraine, in 2023, industrial production of agricultural products may be reduced by 50 per cent. The main reason will be the shortage of fertilisers and the ongoing war.11 Similarly, the reduction in production is almost equivalent to the reduction in the area of agricultural land used.
What’s going on with archaic agriculture
In Ukraine, land owners are 45 per cent of the population. Some 51 per cent of landowners lease their land plots to farmers or agricultural holdings. However, almost 23 per cent of Ukrainians work on their land plots.12 Taking into account family ties, the proportion of the population that has the opportunity to receive agricultural products free is much larger. It is possible that almost 50 per cent of Ukrainians grow agricultural products themselves or receive it from their relatives. These land plots are located next to rural houses. Therefore, people always use this land if they live in their homes. This makes archaic agriculture very reliable.
The war did not have a bad effect on this part of agriculture. Vice versa. Due to the deterioration of living conditions, Ukrainians began to work more actively on the land. People do this to provide themselves with vegetables and fruits. Such agriculture does not provide an opportunity to earn a lot of money. But it allows people to get almost free food. In times of war, this is very important. This guarantees survival.
The size of the land plot near the rural house is 0.14 – 0.6 acres. Such small areas are processed manually without the use of machinery. It doesn’t require any money. Only labor and time. Planting, weeding, watering and harvesting is done by hand. Even the seeds are used from the previous harvest.
Larisa and Alexander Khromov, residents of the village of Ivanovka, the city of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, spoke about how this happens.
What is the area of your land?
The Khromovs: We use 0.48 acres of land. We have two plots of land. One piece of land with an area of 0.14 acres is located near our house. The second piece of land, 0.34 acres, is at our son-in-law’s house. Almost half an acre of land is a large area. Most of our neighbors use only 0.14 acres of land.
What plants do you plant on your land?
The Khromovs: The main vegetable is potatoes. The climate makes it possible to harvest two crops of potatoes per season. We plant potatoes for the first time at the end of March. We harvest this crop in late June early July. Then quickly plant the potatoes again.
We collect the second crop of potatoes in October. Sprout potatoes before planting. That is, we plant potatoes with sprouts. So potatoes grow faster. If you plant 2.2 pounds of potatoes, you can harvest a crop of 5-6 pounds.
We usually plant potatoes on an area of 0.14 acres. This is enough to provide two families with potatoes for the winter. This is also enough to leave potatoes for planting next year.
We also plant cucumbers and tomatoes. To do this, we grow seedlings in a small greenhouse. This greenhouse is made of metal arcs and polyethylene. In May, seedlings from the greenhouse are transplanted into open ground. By July, the first tomatoes and cucumbers appear. We canned these vegetables. That is, we close tomatoes and cucumbers in a special brine in glass jars. In these jars, tomatoes and cucumbers can be stored for about 3 years. In winter, it is very tasty to eat canned vegetables with potatoes. We usually use about 0.07 acres of land for tomatoes and cucumbers. This is enough to preserve about 50-60 three-liter jars of cucumbers and tomatoes.
We also plant parsley, dill and different types of lettuce. We freeze this herb in the refrigerator. In winter, we always have fresh herbs for meat or potatoes. For greenery, we use about 0.01 acres of land. This is the smallest piece of land.
The main part of our land is used for growing various fruits. These are cherries, apples, pears, currants, raspberries and gooseberries. Currants and raspberries are frozen for the winter in the refrigerator. Before, when the economic situation was better, we made jam. But now sugar is expensive. Therefore, we cannot make sweet jam. Fruit is simply frozen. From cherries, apples and pears we make juice. We have a juicer for this. We manage to make about 50 gallons (200 litres) of juice. We close this juice in glass jars. In winter, this is a very healthy drink. For growing fruits, we use the largest part of our land. This is almost 0.3 acres of land.
We also plant a small amount of zucchini or watermelons. But this happens if there is free space.
How do you farm the land?
The Khromovs: Twice a year, in early March and mid-October, we dig the ground with a pitchfork. The earth must be loosened before planting and before the onset of cold weather. In the spring, digging the earth helps to plant plants better. Digging the earth in autumn allows us to destroy the roots of weeds due to winter frosts. Forks are more effective for digging earth than a shovel. Digging with a pitchfork is easier and faster than with a shovel. In the summer we destroy the grass with choppers. We do everything by hand. The only mechanism we use is the grindstone. With this grinder we sharpen choppers, pitchforks and shovels.
What about watering the plants?
The Khromovs: We have a constant shortage of water. We have a well. A well can draw only 130 gallons of water in one day. We also have running water. But the pressure in the water supply in the summer is very weak. Therefore, we do various tricks to save water. Thank God, big trees grow without watering. Also, we almost never water the potatoes. We plant dill and parsley as soon as the frosts end. We do this at the end of March. Therefore, already at the end of May, greens can be harvested. So early planting allows greenery to grow before the summer heat sets in. It often rains in spring, so natural rains are enough to water the greenery.
But tomatoes and cucumbers must be watered constantly. We water it a couple of times a week. We usually water after 5 pm. Tomatoes and cucumbers watered with tap water. We connect the hose to the faucet and use a special sprinkler. This takes about 2-3 hours.
The most difficult thing to water is young trees that are planted this year, as well as currant bushes, gooseberries and raspberries. It has to be watered by hand. We have 28 young trees, 150 raspberry bushes, 48 currant bushes and 9 gooseberry bushes. It takes 250 gallons of water to water all this. We water it using watering cans. These are special containers from which water runs in thin streams. Each watering can contains 2.6 gallons of water. To make such watering, we use a well and water supply at the same time. It takes about 5 hours to water all the bushes and young trees. This is done once a week. For every young tree we pour 5.2 gallons of water. We pour 2.6 gallons of water under each currant or gooseberry bush. Under each raspberry bush we pour 0.79 gallons of water. This amount of water is enough for a crop. Nature helps us. It doesn’t rain often. But usually in 10-15 days there is one good rain. This complements the watering we do by hand.
War does not interfere with agriculture?
The Khromovs: How can war interfere? All we need is our hands. We do everything by hand. We don’t even use electricity. There will be no water in the water supply, we will use a well. The main thing is that the house was whole and we were alive. Then we can cultivate the garden. But the farmer’s fields around Kramatorsk have not been sown this year. Businessmen did not dare to invest in agriculture.
What are the prospects for your agriculture?
The Khromovs: Prospects? (laughing). The best prospect is to pass it all on to children and grandchildren. We are no longer young. We are retired. But it will be good for children and grandchildren to work on the land. Before the war, young people were not very fond of working on the land. But now the popularity of rural life has increased. Rural houses have become a source of food and safe life. There are very few officials in the countryside. All residents know each other. The village has become an island of calm. Just to live here people have to work. The earth will provide food for life.
What would you like to say to the people of Australia?
The Khromovs: We wish you peace and prosperity. Don’t forget to help your parents if they need help. Come visit us in Ukraine. Our climate is not as hot as yours.
As you can see, the villagers continue to work on the land during the war. Private land plots have become a reliable help for almost half of the population of Ukraine. The war only strengthened the true values for man. One of these values is agricultural land. Do you have your own land?