Farmers call on president to make decision on adjusting second stage of land reform taking into account wartime realities in agricultural sector – UAC
The Ukrainian Agrarian Council (UAC) calls on President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to uphold a petition on the postponement until two years after the end of the war of a 100-fold increase in the limit on land sale from January 1, 2024 and not send it to the government or parliament for consideration, Head of the UAC Andriy Dykun has said at a press conference hosted by the press center of the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency on Monday.
"In Ukraine, 60% of agricultural products are made by middle-sized agricultural business and only 25% – by big ones. As representatives of medium-sized business, we oppose [the 100-fold increase in the limit on land sale to 10,000 hectares from January 1, 2024]. We are asking the president to not give us a formal answer as well as not send the petition to the Cabinet of Ministers or the profile parliamentary committee for consideration," he said.
The head of Ukraine's largest agricultural association recalled that in 2019, before the start of the land reform, Zelenskyy explained to farmers the principle of work of the land market which game impetus to the launch of the land reform.
"We understand that the number one task today is victory. The president should direct his every effort at it. But many of our members, I mean not only employees but also owners of enterprises, are in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Dykun said and called on the president to take their opinion into account.
Serviceman Oleksandr Mohylevtsev, who headed a family farm with a land bank of 1,500 hectares in Zaporizhia region before the full-scale invasion, said that 70% of the region was occupied in the first ten days of the full-scale war.
"Our enterprise, which had been developing for 30 years, has vanished as it was nationalized and looted by Russia. We will certainly demine, restore it and bring things back to order there. But we need time and resources for this, and I hope this will take than 30 years," he said, adding that all farmers in the frontline territories, whose enterprises have been exhausted not only by the war but also by a land crisis, are facing the same situation today.
"The land corridors and blockades during the war have almost suspended the life of agricultural business. It is not the best time for the land market under such conditions," Mohylevtsev said.
He also emphasized the importance of creating equal conditions for the farmers, agricultural holdings and various foundations, developing financial instruments and programs, payment of compensations to the looted and destroyed enterprises, introduction of a transparent demining mechanism in the de-occupied territories.
"In addition to the Peace Formula, there should be also a formula of Ukrainian rural development, a formula of processing agricultural products. […] The sale of land is our of question while the war is going on. The reform should be suspended. […] We could get back to the issue when the war is over," the military farmer said.
Director of the Kalyna Loshnevska farm (Ternopil region) Alla Stechyshyn emphasized that not a single farmer, who represents small- and medium-sized business in the western regions of Ukraine, has savings in banks and any other financial wealth for the purchase of land. The value of the 2023 harvest is smaller than it was before the full-scale invasion. The farmers took lots of loans. The same situation is with the agricultural holdings which are having difficulties with grain export.
"The need to take loans for the purchase of land will force the farmers to choose between buying land or running agricultural business. I am calling on the president, the leadership of the industry: consider the petition which raised 25,000 signatures in a very short time. Take it into account. Most small- and medium-sized businesses are not ready to buy land plots. We need to stand for two or three years so as not to fall down on our knees," she said.
Director of the Andriivka private enterprise (Kharkiv region) Mykola Pyvovar admitted that the agricultural sector, small- and medium-sized businesses had good results as of January 2022. But already in 2022, part of the pre-war harvest was sold with losses. All farmers have been helping the army since the first days of the full-scale war.
"Agricultural businesses have a lot of loans today. We are all grateful to the government for increasing the loan portfolio under the 5-7-9 program from UAH 90 million to UAH 150 million. At the same time, we understand: if we work and see such results for one or two more years, then the agricultural industry won't be able to exist – it will go bankrupt," he said.
According to Pyvovar, under these circumstances, the government "will be unable to warm up" the land market enough to sell 10,000 hectares of land in one hand.
"We support the reform. We are in favor of admitting legal entities to the land market, but the concentration of land should be revised," he said, adding that a proposal to sell 1,000 hectares in one hand could be an acceptable step to continue the land reform.
The head of the UAC said that farmers understand the situation in the country very well, and no one is even thinking about any protests, however they count on the president's understanding and hope for his personal participation in addressing the issue of putting off the launch of the second stage of the land reform.