Ukraine fears food production, export losses after dam destruction
The destruction of the Kakhovka dam, which has led to severe floods in parts of Ukraine, will likely impact both agricultural production and exports, according to the government in Kyiv.
An attack left the major dam in Southern Ukraine destroyed on Tuesday (6 June), leading to two dozen villages being flooded and forcing 17,000 people to evacuate.
But apart from the immediate humanitarian consequences, the flooding could also have an important impact on agricultural production in the country, several ministries warned.
In a statement published on Wednesday, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry estimated that around 10,000 hectares of agricultural land would be affected by floods on the Ukrainian-held right bank of the Dnipro river alone, and “several times more on the left bank” which is currently under Russian control.
“Detailed information will be known in the coming days, after analysing information and pictures about the size of the flood,” the statement added.
The ministry also warned of interruptions to the water supply of “31 irrigation systems” for fields in the Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.
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An attack on a major Russian-held dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday (6 June) unleashed a torrent of water that flooded two dozen villages and forced the evacuation of 17,000 people, sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster.
“The impacts will be in multiple dimensions,” deputy economy minister Taras Kachka also told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday, adding this included damages to irrigation.
While Kachka said the broken dam would not affect the whole farming sector throughout the country since “all regions of Ukraine are quite important for agriculture”, he said the damage to food production “will be there”.
Kachka also pointed to the impact of the incident on transport infrastructure and thus on future agricultural exports via the Dnipro River and the Black Sea.
Currently, the Black Sea grain deal between Kyiv and Moscow, meant to allow for the export of Ukrainian grain via its Black Sea ports, has been halted after Russia blocked the registration of ships to Ukrainian ports, according to Kyiv.
But once the Black Sea ports are unblocked, the damages left by the broken dam could make it more difficult to ramp up exports again, Kachka said.
Olya Korbut, a fellow at the Center of European Policy Analysis (CEPA), said in a statement that this way, “the attack will affect not only Ukraine, but the rest of the Black Sea countries too”.
“Due to the destruction of the irrigation systems of the agrarian southern Ukraine, the already meagre export capacity of Ukrainian grain will decrease even more,” she added.
Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry also warned that fisheries will be faced with “negative consequences”, adding fish deaths had already been recorded. “The spawning period has just ended and as a result of the fall in the water level, caviar will dry up in the shallowed areas,” the statement said.
In addition, 95,000 tonnes of adult fish could die, the ministry estimated.
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As a large food producer, agricultural exports are an important source of revenue for Ukraine in the face of the blow that Russia’s war of aggression has dealt to the country’s economy.
While Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for the destruction of the dam, most experts agree a Russian attack is the more likely scenario, and the EU has condemned the destruction as a Russian attack.
“We reiterate our support to President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula, which also includes accountability for war crimes, nuclear safety, energy security, food security and protection of the environment,” EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell and Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said in a statement.
For Kachka, the incident and the damage done to food production show “that Russia has no interest in the development of Ukraine”.
“What they want is simply to destroy everything and to do as much damage as possible,” he added.
The EU and many of its member states have repeatedly accused Russia of using food as a weapon since the start of the war.
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