Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Ukraine War Q&A Series: Why Worry About Ukraine’s Agriculture Exports?

by Peter Zeihan on May 18, 2023

The fourth question of the Q&A series is…why am I so worried about agriculture exports coming out of Ukraine?

Ukraine’s preferred route for its bulk wheat and maize exports has always been water—specifically via the Black Sea. Now you’re probably thinking, “Even with seaborne export routes being blocked by Russia, can’t Ukraine just send stuff by rail to neighboring countries?” Theoretically, yes, but there are a few problems.

There are two sizeable hurdles to overland transit. The first is limited rail capacity and differing infrastructure. Ukraine’s Soviet past means its rail lines are of a different gauge than most of Europe, forcing it to rely on aging legacy connectivity in Romania and Poland. And now there is a new issue on the horizon. As Ukraine started dumping more and more grain into its neighboring EU countries, the local economies took a hit. Resulting in many of these countries refusing Ukrainian grain in support of their local farmers. It can still pass through, but it can’t stop there.

As Ukraine’s exports now need to go further, new infrastructure is required, and profits will get even lower. There isn’t a quick fix for this. To add insult to injury, Russia will soon target Ukrainian agricultural infrastructure. Meaning last year was likely the last time Ukraine would be a significant producer of foodstuffs for the world.

Ukraine War Q&A Series: Why Worry About Ukraine's Agriculture Exports? || Peter Zeihan

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