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Ukraine, not just the breadbasket of Europe

  The Ukrainian flag consists of two blocks, a bright yellow at the bottom and a dark blue at the top. Vladyslava Rutytska, the former deputy minister of the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture, once explained the symbolic meaning of the Ukrainian flag, “The yellow at the bottom symbolizes the large wheat fields, and the blue at the top represents the blue sky.” Under the blue sky are wheat fields, “even our The flag is a reminder that Ukraine is a big agricultural producer.”
  Not only wheat, Ukraine’s fertile soil is also rich in corn, sunflower seeds and rapeseed. Most of the crops grown on these farms are transported to many countries in Europe and Asia after maturity, or sent to people’s tables, or to livestock farms to feed livestock. Because of the huge amount of wheat exported, to many Europeans, Ukraine has a more prominent name, “breadbasket”, the bread basket.
  When the huge amount of food from a single origin is closely linked to the needs of the world, food is not just as simple as a meal on a plate, it begins to involve political, diplomatic, economic and security issues such as grand but specific issues.
Throw what looks like fertile soil

  ”We are very fortunate to have fertile land and a great climate, as well as abundant water from rivers, lakes, and two seas, the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov.” Rutytska summed it up in a short sentence Ukrainian “unique talent” in food production.
  Black soil is a kind of soil evolved from surface vegetation after long-term erosion to form humus. The soil is loose and has high fertility. It is the most fertile soil. The organic matter content of black soil is about 10 times that of loess, and under the same conditions, it can produce much more grain than ordinary soil. The distribution of black soil is limited in the world. Statistics show that the land area of ​​the earth is about 149 million square kilometers, while the black soil area does not exceed 5 million square kilometers, and the typical black soil area is even rarer.
  But for Ukrainians, black land is not a rare thing – Ukraine has 25% of the world’s black land, covering two-thirds of the country’s land area, and the black land here has the best soil quality.
  Fertile soil is a necessary condition for food production. In fact, the Eastern European plain, where Ukraine is located, is vast, but Ukraine is the only country that is regarded as the granary of Europe. The key variable in this is the Dnieper River.
  The Dnieper River is the fourth longest river in Europe, with a total length of about 2,285 kilometers. The watershed runs right through the middle of Ukraine’s black soil.
  The Dnieper River has many tributaries. Every winter to spring, a lot of ice and snow melt, and the water source is very rich. The average flow reaches 1670 cubic meters per second, which is enough to water crops grown on black soil.
  It is worth mentioning that the estuary of the Dnieper River, and a peninsula stretches out from the east bank, blocking the Black Sea. In addition, the South Bug River is injected into the same bay, creating a peculiar geographical environment. The Ottoman Turks fought fiercely here. During World War II, Germany and the Soviet Union also fought brutally on both sides of the Dnieper River. The Dnieper is to Ukraine what the Volga is to Russia and the Nile is to Egypt.
  Ukraine has not squandered these absolute advantages in food production. “If you look at old photos, old stamps and some excerpts about Ukraine, you will see that we are a purely agricultural country,” Rutytska said.
Granary, not only European

  A large amount of grain is exported from the black land to all countries in the world while satisfying the domestic consumption of Ukraine. In recent years, the export value of Ukrainian agricultural products has continued to record highs. Ukraine’s agricultural exports hit a new record of $24.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2021, Ukrainian customs data showed. According to the analysis of the Ukrainian Agricultural Economics Institute, this is mainly due to the continued rise in international food prices. At the same time, Ukrainian exporters make full use of international market conditions to meet the needs of consumers in market segments.
  In terms of grain types, corn, wheat and barley are the main grains exported by Ukraine.
  According to USDA data, Ukraine is the fourth largest corn producer in the world after the United States, Brazil and Argentina, accounting for more than 15% of world corn exports. As far as barley is concerned, Ukraine accounts for about 6% of barley production, and barley exports are as high as 15%. In the wheat market, Russia and Ukraine account for 14% of global wheat production, of which Ukraine’s wheat exports account for 10% of the world’s total.
  According to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database, the top three countries in Ukraine’s wheat exports are Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh, with total exports of US$2.34 billion, US$2.23 billion and US$1.47 billion respectively.
  Ukrainian corn exports to a wider range of countries, covering many countries in Asia and Europe. Among them, the country with the largest export is China, with a total export value of 3.32 billion US dollars, followed by Egypt, with a total export value of 2.3 billion US dollars, and the next few All are European countries, namely the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, with a total export value of more than 1 billion US dollars.
  It can be seen that the EU countries and the Middle East are relatively dependent on Ukraine for food.
  On the EU side, on the surface, it is also a net exporter of grain itself, and the grain imported from Ukraine only accounts for 4.9% of the EU’s total grain imports, but the devil is in the details. Imported meet from Ukraine. According to Nazar Bobitski, director of the Brussels Office of the Ukraine Economic and Trade Association, 88% of sunflower oil, 41% of rapeseed and 26% of honey in EU countries are produced in Ukraine.
  In the Middle East, many countries such as Lebanon, Libya and Egypt are highly dependent on Ukraine’s wheat exports; the World Food Program also purchases wheat from Ukraine to provide food aid to Yemen and Syria. Zhao Jun, an associate professor at the Middle East Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, also pointed out in an interview with the media that, in fact, many African countries now also rely on the food supply of Russia and Ukraine.
  In addition, according to an analysis by Erin Collier, an economist at the Trade and Markets Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 12% of corn is placed on the human table worldwide, and about 60% is sent to livestock farms. That is to say, Ukraine’s grain exports not only affect the supply and consumption of a single crop, but also have a conductive impact on the entire grain industry chain, involving the production of meat and dairy products.
Influence spillover, imperial grain battle

  History has long proven that the impact of grain trade extends far beyond the dining table of every household.
  After the Civil War, the invention and use of explosives made it possible to build westward railways, so the United States was able to transport grain from the central region to the west by rail, and then ship it all the way to Europe. The large amount of wheat exports from the United States indirectly led to the collapse of the Russian Empire, because before that, European countries depended heavily on the grain supply of Ukraine, which was still part of the Russian Empire, but the grain exports of the United States completely changed this situation.
  In his new book, Ocean of Grain, Scott Reynolds Nelson, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, makes this point in particular: Trade makes empires, not empires drive trade. Nelson illustrates this point through the experience of the character Alexander Israel Helphand.
  Parvus was a Russian trader and reformer. Born in Osad in the second half of the 19th century, he witnessed the agricultural crisis of 1873. In this crisis, cheap wheat from the United States, political strife in Russia, the economic crisis, and the bursting of the housing bubble across Europe, all intertwined, leading to a massive recession that ultimately transformed the continent on which Russia is located. .
  While Parvus is the character thread that runs through the book, the real protagonist of the book is wheat—how it is produced, where it is produced, and, more importantly, how it changed the course of history. In Nelson’s book, he makes a strong case that food production, shortages, transportation, and trade were decisive factors in the rise and fall of civilizations, whether it was the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, or Tsarist Russia. And the most recent dispute in the Middle East in 2010, the Arab Spring, was also largely caused by the lack of grain harvest in Ukraine.
  Of course, the more direct impact of food is still the problem of people’s food and clothing.
  Collier said that once Ukraine’s corn production decreases, countries such as China and Europe may have other corn exporters as substitutes, but this will also lead to tight global corn supply, and ultimately Africa, which is already facing a food crisis, will be most affected. . “Africa relies on maize as its main food source, and they rely on imports
  ,” said David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. 45 million of them are even on the verge of famine. The world can no longer afford a conflict to make the already huge number of hungry people even bigger.”
  “The Black Sea Basin is the world’s most important food and food source. One of the agricultural production regions, any impact on food security is not only relevant to Ukraine itself, but will transcend national borders and make those who are extremely poor suffer worse.”
  Food and politics, diplomacy, economics and security always go hand in hand, And humanity may only be just beginning to appreciate the impact of the shift in food trade in today’s world.

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