“We produce wheat, but it cannot leave the country”

On the occasion of the Davos summit, which was held from May 22 to 26 in Switzerland, the Ukrainian foreign trade minister, Taras Kachka, returned to the damage inflicted on his country, the industrial and agricultural activities still standing and obstacles to recovery.

How to count the damage suffered by Ukraine?

We can of course use the traditional macroeconomic figure, which tells us that the gross domestic product of Ukraine should fall in 2022 by 30% to 40%. However, the reality is more complex. In terms of destruction, we are currently at 24,000 kilometers of roads and 38 million square meters of housing. We estimate them at 100 billion dollars [93 milliards d’euros] in book value and $600 billion in negative impact. If we aggregate all the losses, we probably come up with around $1 trillion.

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Has the active population decreased with population movements and departures for war?

The biggest impact is that of the seven million displaced. Then come the four million people who have gone abroad, to which must be added around 700,000 others who have taken the road to war. However, we are also starting to see some returns to work, especially in the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions. [Est]. That being said, almost 70% of companies are working normally. For example, the banking sector operates at 80%, that of the railways, of course, but also the post office or electricity.

What about the mainstays of your foreign trade, agriculture and steel?

As for agriculture, 80% of the arable land is planted and we will have a wheat production comparable to that of 2021, even if fertilizer and diesel for machinery are lacking. There will be a little less corn. But overall, we are able to export around the world a volume of grain comparable to that of last year. The problem is that he can’t get out of the country.

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In 2021, we exported 20 million tons of wheat and 24.6 million tons of corn, almost all by sea. Trains and trucks are not suitable for such quantities, especially since the infrastructure storage and the entire ecosystem, including traders, are installed in the ports around Odessa [Sud]. In the case of sunflower, of which we are the world’s largest exporter, we exported 5.1 million tonnes in 2021. This year, we can only take out 100,000 tonnes per month by land.

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