Going with the Grain: Ukrainian Delegation Visits FAO and Naples

Some say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone – this was the case with Ukrainian grain exports, as the world has discovered in the last few years. The country imposed various grain export restriction in the marketing years 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2010/11 that have somewhat undermined its reputation as a reliable supplier. Since 2009, FAO’s Investment Centre and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have been working with Ukraine to create open dialogue between the public and private sectors with regard to grain policy. Over the last decade Ukraine has become one of the key global suppliers of grain; so the government’s unexpected grain export restrictions took farmers, grain industry stakeholders and the global market by surprise. The lack of transparency and clear communication by the government about anticipated export measures was evident.

As a part of the FAO/EBRD Project on Reinforcing the Public-Private Dialogue in the Ukrainian Grain Sector, a visit of a Working Group of the Ukrainian grain market was organized from 19 to 22 March 2012 in Rome and Naples, Italy to learn more about grain market analysis, the new Agricultural Marketing Information System (AMIS), FAO’s approach to food security and also to establish links with the Italian grain sector. The delegation consisted of members of government, the private sector, agricultural and grain industry organizations and researchers.

In the first two days of the visit the delegation engaged in discussions on agricultural and rural statistics systems, global food markets, food security issues, and Ukrainian-Italian grain trade history and requirements. The presentation of AMIS was among the most important along with the discussion about the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS): these are FAO’s leading sources of information on food production and security that use both unofficial and official data to provide grain market analysis. The two systems rely on participation from their contributing member countries to release timely and accurate data.

On Wednesday 21 March, the Ukrainian delegation visited the Port of Naples to see a port grain terminal that functions on concession terms. The next visit was to the Garofalo pasta facility in Gragnano, a city with the first geographical indication (GI) for pasta worldwide: this means that certified pasta from Gragnano has been recognized as superior quality due to the region and its traditional methods of production. Then, the group visited a flour mill specializing in producing flour for pizza and bread.

Ukraine has been known as an exporter of medium and low-quality wheat. As farmers’ access to financing and agricultural inputs improves, they can start supplying better quality wheat to meet the needs of flour and pasta producers. Therefore, quality control, wheat selection and standards were important elements of discussion. Upon its return to Rome, the delegation visited a grain producer to learn about crop rotation schemes and production techniques, state support, taxation and other policy measures.

After the visit, Heike Harmgart, a Senior Economist at EBRD, commented that the project “is an example how the private sector voice can be brought to the attention of government officials in their policy making decisions. We are very much looking forward to continue and scale up our successful cooperation” in the Ukraine. In addition to this project, the Investment Centre has been working with EBRD in Ukraine to develop a crop receipt system to improve pre-harvest financing, performed a sector study and research in the grain industry and the dairy industry , and continues to do work reviewing the sugar and meat sectors in the country.

For all workshop material, click here.