Sunday, April 6

Ukrainian Ag Entrepreneurs Seek Solutions In Saskatchewan

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the world's population on the rise, countries that export agricultural goods will become essential to meeting the increasing global demand for food. That reality applies to Canada, and it also applies to another country with which Canada has many connections: Ukraine.

"Ukraine is one of a few places on earth where real potential for significant increase of agricultural output exists," said Paul Ivanicky, a Ukrainian entrepreneur visiting the province. "There is almost everything to achieve it - wonderful soils, well-trained specialists, a large labour force and growing world demand for food."

Ivanicky and his counterpart Maxim Zakharov represent Kiev Atlantic Ukraine, a joint stock company with foreign investments. The pair recently came to Saskatchewan hoping to create long-term business contacts to expand their farming operation and agribusiness located just outside the Ukrainian capital.

Their efforts have taken them to universities, livestock operations, slaughter plants and abattoirs. So far, they have been overwhelmed by the positive results of their outreach to develop partnerships with industry and adopt Western agricultural production practices, innovations and technology.

"We cannot believe the hospitality of the people here and the willingness of others to help us," Zakharov said. "We have had countless offers from organizations and professionals to come over and assist us with our livestock operation, as well as our newest venture into the beef slaughter and processing sector. It's unbelievable!"

Part of the warm reception the entrepreneurs have enjoyed may be attributable to the strong ties that exist between Saskatchewan and their home country. Many of the province's citizens have some Ukrainian ancestry in their backgrounds.

However, according to Wendell Ebbert, a Livestock Development Specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, when it comes to agriculture, Ukraine is also a nation with considerable opportunity and positive potential.

"With over 42 million hectares of arable land, a European-type climate with 24 inches of annual rainfall, and 180 frost-free growing days, Ukraine will be a major land of agricultural opportunity," Ebbert said. "Twenty-five per cent of the world's richest black soil and 27 per cent of Europe's tilled soil are found in Ukraine."

The agricultural sector represents about 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, and is viewed by many as one of the brightest prospects for Western trade and investment.

In addition, the country is situated within 2,000 miles of a billion people, three-quarters of whom do not produce sufficient food to feed themselves.

"The world will look to Ukraine to solve a variety of its feed, food and fuel problems, and agricultural production will play a monumental role," Ebbert said.

Livestock inventories in the country have increased on a small scale since 1991 on a few private farms, although a rapid recovery in beef production as a whole remains uncertain. The Ukrainian cattle herd is comprised mainly of dairy breeds, with a small share of dual-purpose animals and meat breeds.

The poultry sector of the livestock industry is the most likely to grow first - since it offers producers the quickest return on their investment - followed by hogs, and then cattle.

In order for the company to achieve its full potential, Kiev Atlantic Ukraine will need to improve the consistency and quality of the beef it produces. They are investigating the possible use of the antibiotics and growth hormones common in American and Canadian beef production but which are not generally accepted in Europe. The company is also considering castrating bull calves - another North American practice that is uncommon in Europe - to reduce animal handling stress and eliminate dark cutters in the carcass.

The Ukrainian agricultural community is researching alternative methods to increase productivity, efficiency and overall quality of the country's beef. Given the province's existing connection with Ukraine, this may present some real opportunities for Saskatchewan agricultural entrepreneurs.

For more information, contact:
Wendell Ebbert, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
Phone: (306) 878-8847
E-mail: wendell.ebbert@gov.sk.ca
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