Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ukraine's common agricultural policy?

Ukraine has a new President after the previous one raided the country’s finances and ran away.

It also has a new Minister of Agriculture who presumably is in the process of determining the new agricultural policy.

The Ukrainian agricultural policy has never been that clear to me - to be fair which country’s is - but it seemed to consist of centralizing power in Kyiv, recreating (did it ever really go away) a command led system with the local administration barking commands, directives, orders and threats at farmers.

As an example, for the last three or four years I have frequently and consistently been ordered to start milking cows as this is what the Ministry of Agricultural has decided must be done therefore I must implement it immediately if I didn't want problems with my current business.

To be fair again, the domestic dairy herd has been in free fall from around eight million cows in the mid-nineties to less than three million today and most of what’s left appear to be house cows.

So an agricultural policy to encourage investing in dairy herds to increase productivity and efficiency of the national herd would appear to make sense.

It would take advantage of the increasing consumption and demand for dairy products in Ukraine and elsewhere; it would reduce the need for imports and create export opportunities; it would create jobs (particularly in the rural areas) and livestock always compliment crop based farming systems.

All in all its probably not a bad idea.

But by creating an almost untenable business environment and doing nothing to control corruption then commanding foreign investment projects start milking cows immediately and demanding to see business plans, that was never really going to work.

The problem with command led systems is those at the top start to believe that only they have the knowledge and the wisdom to see the big picture and they then patronize and expect those beneath them to respond accordingly.

This might have worked in former times (it never really did) but in today’s developing economic structure demanding to see the business plan for a new 1000 cow dairy unit from a private and often foreign investor is just not going to work now is it.

Let’s hope the new Ministers of Agriculture and the new administration recognize the importance of agriculture and what it has to offer in enabling Ukraine to get on its feet economically and support and help farmers accordingly.

I sincerely hope it’s not just a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”