MHP, one of Ukraine’s largest grain producers, forecast a drop of less than 5% in its crop area this harvest despite the “extended scale” of the war, which has forced it to close a meat processing factory and halted its exports.

The Kiev-based group said that it was this year “going to harvest around 335,000 hectares in total”, an area bigger than the UK county of Gloucestershire, and down only 15,400 hectares year on year.

The 67,000 hectares of winter crops, of which wheat comprises 60% and rapeseed 40%, was “in good condition”.

Sowing the rest of the area, put down to spring crops such as corn and sunflowers, was “ongoing”, said MHP, whose landbank of 370,000 hectares is focused on central and western areas of Ukraine.

The group said last week that there was a “probability” that 15,000 hectares of its land in Kiev and Sumy regions, which had fallen under Russian occupation, could now be seeded, following Moscow’s withdrawal of its troops from the area.

Export woes

The comments come amid wide debate over the prospects for Ukraine’s harvest this year, given the disruption posed by conflict, with a report from US officials overnight, for instance, terming the prospects for the rapeseed production and exports “a big unknown”.

MHP – Ukraine’s largest chicken producer and exporter – said in Friday’s statement that its “export sales have ceased as a result of ports being closed”, with export delivery by road having proved “practically impossible”.

The group had managed to achieve “insignificant volumes” of exports by utilising “alternative logistic routes”.

For sunflower and soybean oils, of which MHP exported more than 250,000 tonnes last year, the group said that exports had been “substantially limited” by the war.

However, it added that “as of today, MHP team is undertaking all possible and necessary steps to continue exports of vegetable oils using European Union ports, railways and trucks”.

‘Inflicting destruction’

The group added that its meat processing plant in the eastern region of Donetsk was currently undamaged, and “is under MHP control”, despite Russia’s focus of its invasion on the area.

The group said last week that it had mothballed the plant because of the conflict, and asked its nearly 2,000 employees in the area “to move to safer regions of Ukraine”.

MHP has also lost more than 3,000 tonnes of poultry products after a warehouse near Kiev caught fire following Russian shelling.

The group added that “the war in Ukraine continues at extended scale, inflicting destruction to the country’s infrastructure and the Ukrainian population.

“Russian invaders have shown utter disregard for civilian lives and directed lethal firepower on cities, towns and villages.”