Speaking at this month’s Australian Grains Industry Conference in Melbourne, Victoria, Nikolay Gorbachov said it was possible Ukraine could comfortably double its average annual wheat production of 25 million tonnes.
“Our yields are about four tonnes a hectare, which has improved in recent years with advances in our farming systems but it is still nothing like the eight tonne per hectare averages you see in France which has similar conditions,” Mr Gorbachov said.
“We have already more than doubled total grain production since 2000 from 41m tonnes to 85mt and I think we can do that again.”
Much of this gain has been from a markedly increased plant of corn, which has soared in production from 3mt in 2000 to 30mt today, however wheat production is also up with Ukrainian production equal or exceeding Aussie tonnages most years.
With only 4mt of domestic milling wheat demand, this spells a lot of wheat to hit the export market.
However, Mr Gorbachov said he did not think Australia and Ukraine were necessarily competing for the same markets, in spite of an increased Ukrainian push to export to countries such as India, Indonesia and China.
“We look at India and see the rises in population and that is why for us, we see it as being a big country for our future,” he said.
However, Mr Gorbachov said the scale of the growth through the region, highlighted by figures such as annual increases in India’s total population of 15 million people, or 62.5 per cent of Australia’s entire population, meant there would be enough demand for grain to go around.
Ukraine’s scope for growth is obvious.
Mr Gorbachov said the majority of the country was arable with good soil fertility and relatively reliable rainfall.
However, he said logistical and political problems still needed to be solved for Ukraine to reach its potential as grain exporter.
“Our railways can only deliver 116,000 tonnes of grain a day to port, no more, which creates bottlenecks and slows down exports at important times,” he said.
Mr Gorbachov said the system of land ownership also needed to evolve.
“You have land ownership where people have just three hectares and they cannot sell it, only lease it,” he said.
“We have 11 million people living in villages but only three million farmers, hopefully soon they are able to sell their land and that will allow larger farmers to make further advances.”