Ukrainian vegetable sector 2023: what to expect

Last year Ukrainian sector of vegetable production was challenging. In 2023 the local farmers are adjusting to the situation with the great help of vegetable seed companies and their expertise.

Vegetable season 2023
photo: Enza Zaden Ukraine

What is the current situation with selection of crops, varieties and hybrids and what are the expectations on the vegetable production in Ukraine in 2023.

 The magazine "Садівництво та Овочівництво” talked with the marketing manager of Enza Zaden Ukraine Grygoriy Shvets.

Deep state map Ukraine
DeepStateMap.Live is an interactive online map of the hostilities in Ukraine that allows you to follow the course of military operations

The 2023 season started quite intensively. First, the traditional vegetable regions – the Southern part of the Kherson region and the Southern part of the Zaporizhzhya are still under occupation. Befire full scale russian invasion they largely supplied the domestic market with crops such as onions, greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes as well as open field tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, watermelons. These two regions were also the main suppliers of early spring carrots, radishes and greens.

Therefore, in 2023 vegetable growers from the Central, Western and partly Southern regions of Ukraine will slightly increase the areas under vegetables  and change their regular assortment in order to compensate the typical "Kherson" crops for the market.

Production vegetables in Ukraine 2021
Map by Kurkul. Open field vegetable production in Ukraine in 2021.

Secondly, compared to the previous year, the local price of vegetables increased by 2-5 times, and of melons - by 10 times. This stimulates small farmers to switch from the crops they used to grow before the war onto  vegetable production. The same tendency is observed among the people in rural areas, the households. The expected increase in vegetable production compared to 2022 however is unlikely to cover the volumes that were lost due to the occupation of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions, so there will still be a certain shortage of vegetables on the local markets of Ukraine in 2023. In the early spring period, there will be a significant shortage of fresh vegetables, because due to problems with electricity supply and heating, most greenhouse vegetable producers have postponed the sowing dates. Also, in the summer - early autumn, there may be a shortage of melon crops, which, probably, cannot be grown in the required quantity by domestic producers, and it will be compensated by imports, as in the previous year.

In March 2023 we see a significant increase in the price of borscht vegetables (onions, carrots, red beet, potato, pepper), because due to the war and occupation of some territories, the area where onions and carrots have been typically grown significantly decreased. It is expected that the vegetable sector will try to adjust in season 2023: existing farmers will extend the sowing areas for vegetables. The majority are farms that previously grew vegetables, have material resources, the necessary equipment and knowledge for effective production, since it is almost impossible to quickly switch to growing vegetables on an industrial scale. The new farmers will enter the vegetable business. These are the SMEs who will grow borscht crops on small areas and those vegetables that do not require large costs for cultivation, in particular, melon crops. And of course the population in rural areas (households) will grow more vegetables for their own needs.

However, a certain deficit, most likely, will persist, because, on the one hand, in this crisis period, the farmers with lack of operational costs have save on the means of production (fertilisers, crop protection, many farmers on de-occupied territories have their field machinery damaged or stolen by the enemy, territories heavily mined etc) which will lead to a relatively low yield.  And on the other hand, new farmers who will enter the vegetable business will not be able to achieve high results due to lack of experience.

Domestic market require from the growers to choose the crops that were typically the assortment of the Southern regions, however our advice is to choose the crops and varieties that can show good results in the conditions of the Central and Western regions of Ukraine. In particular, these are pepper, zucchini, radish and melon crops.

Usually seed companies in Ukraine help their existing and potential clients with choosing the right crops and hybrids. It is not only because Ukraine is located in the different climatic zones with different soil types. But horticultural practices and experience also differ in different regions of Ukraine. The selection of crops or hybrids begins with an analysis of the farm's capabilities:

• how much money the farm is ready to invest in new crop introduction, since vegetable growing in more intensive than grain and oilseeds;

• availability of the necessary machinery and equipment;

• qualified staff and agronomists;

• workers (full-time or seasonal) for harvesting or post-harvest processing etc.

Therefore, if a farmer plans to start growing vegetables for the first time, he contacts our regional representative, with whom he discusses these and other essential issues.  After this the areas, assortment of crops and hybrids are agreed upon. The clients of the seed companies always get after sale service which include agronomic support and trainings. So together we are ready for the new challenging year.

Read full article in Ukrainian in the March edition: