To ensure that Ukraine recovers and can continue to supply Europe with food, it is important that Europe and the Netherlands continue to invest in the country. This is the opinion of Reinoud Nuijten, who works on behalf of the Netherlands as an agricultural councilor in Ukraine. ‘For the sake of the continent, it is important to attract Ukraine to Europe.’
Reinoud Nuijten (45) has been working as an agricultural councilor in Ukraine since 2019. As a representative of Dutch agriculture, he seeks links with the Ukrainian sector, seeks to break down trade barriers and uses Dutch expertise to help develop agricultural capacity in Ukraine. The war in the country has changed a lot. According to Nuijten, it is important to continue investing in Ukraine. “We must not let the country sway.”
Our farmers in Ukraine mean so much that they really deserve a statue
Reinoud Nuijten, Agricultural Council of Ukraine
How are Dutch farmers doing in Ukraine?
‘I have a lot of contact with them. There is a shortage of seeds, fuel, fertilizers and pesticides. It is also about the prospects, the long-term issues. Our relationship as one of the largest importers from Ukraine is changing. There is a desire from the Netherlands to help the country. We are thinking about how we can do this, including with Dutch farmers.
‘The Dutch farmers in Ukraine continue as usual, despite the scarcity. They are also all, a few dozen, in humanitarian aid. So far, they have been able to do more for the citizens in this area than we as a government have been able to do. They deserve a statue. ‘
What is the Netherlands’ commitment to agriculture in Ukraine?
“The great danger is that the war may make us want to wait or phase out the whole country. If that happens then the economy will collapse even more and you will have problems. Then you get permanent outcomes, especially in eastern Ukraine.
“Then food safety becomes an even bigger problem, and it also means an economic blow to our own companies. That is why we must help as much as possible to keep the economy going. Like the EU, but also like the Netherlands. Our companies there are part of the solution. ‘
What about the mountains of grain that can not leave the country?
‘Agrology is now the most pressing issue for the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture. The ports will be out for a long time. Some can be exported via Lithuania and Romania, but these are patches on the wound. Stopping the war is the solution, but of course it is difficult. That is why more European integration is needed. An important initiative in this regard is the solidarity railways on the border with Poland, where European transport companies can bring goods, animal feed or fertilizer and pick up agricultural products.
“I am not saying that Ukraine should join the EU, but reward the country for its struggle and offer the prospect of more integration. With the same legislation and, for example, the same track gauge, which can simplify exports by train. Ukraine is not always an easy country, but they want to go to Europe. Allowing Ukraine to exist as a ‘no-man’s land’ will only make it poorer and poorer. ‘
What about the Ukrainian agricultural policy?
»The Ukrainian agricultural sector is strongly market-oriented. If we ask, they answer it. Their Ministry of Agriculture is small and lacks the capacity and resources to develop good policies. Ukraine could be an excellent supplier of alternative proteins, and they should be. ‘
Certain areas have been provisionally set aside for agriculture. How will the lower production continue to work? ‘
‘I fear no shortage of food, for other parts of the world are producing extra this year. However, due to the diversion of trade flows, prices will rise. This is especially noticeable in countries with less purchasing power. But another Arab Spring, which the Ukrainians are now predicting, I see as a Ukrainian scare tactic. On the other hand, sometimes things happen so gradually that you do not realize they are happening. But then this war will only be one of the factors in it. It’s hard to say whether it will really be a huge drama. “
Can Ukraine become Europe’s breadbasket again?
‘There are four major problems: a significant part of the land has been lost, infrastructure has been destroyed, there is a logistical problem and there is a shortage of production resources. Much has been destroyed, but we can shape the future ourselves. But then we must not hold on to Russia, it is not our friend now. We need to restructure our economy accordingly. The more unstable the attitude towards Russia, the more uncertain the future is.
“Russia rejects relations with the West, I feel differently about Ukraine. There are still major problems, but it is a country that is clearly heading west. As for me, we will come out much stronger if we pull Ukraine to Europe. In the interest of the continent, you, like Europe, need to invest in Ukraine. ‘
In 2019, you said: ‘Food production in Ukraine can increase significantly.’ Is that still the case?
‘Yes, that is possible. But Europe must understand that this requires a clear choice. You should not let Ukraine dominate. The Dutch government can take an example from the Dutch business community in this regard. Despite the war, entrepreneurs remain in Ukraine, investing and putting their heart and soul into it. Try as a government to follow the business in this. The sky is the limit: we have knowledge, Ukraine the possibilities. ‘