Why Ukraine’s Farmers Are Frightened

Via Ozy, a look at the issue of illegal seizure of Ukraine agricultural land:

The life of land-working folk, regardless of where they’re based, has never been easy. They’re up before dawn; their impossibly long days are often packed with intense physical labor. That’s in addition to all the challenges involved with running a profitable business in the age of automation.

But in Ukraine — blessed with swaths of soil so richly fertile that it earned a reputation as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union — farmers and other professionals who run agriculture businesses have more to worry about.


That’s according to the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, an advocacy group that commissioned a study last year involving 500 directors of midsize agricultural firms from around the country. They’re referring to a phenomenon called “raiding,” in which an entrepreneur’s business or property is yanked from them, usually by reregistering their business to another entity with the help of crooked bureaucrats, courts and law enforcement officials. According to the Social Monitoring Center, which conducted the survey, 71 percent either agreed or categorically agreed that they’re vulnerable to such attacks. “What’s more,” says Viktoria Kipriyanova, a lawyer for the UAC, “raiders act brazenly and openly, since they’re confident in their impunity.”

While it’s hardly new to Ukraine — or to other former Soviet republics still struggling with corruption — the issue has taken on greater urgency as the country struggles to convince its Western allies that it’s serious about eradicating graft following a 2014 revolution. Raiding isn’t restricted to Ukrainian agriculture either. But the vastness and economic promise of the sector, the country’s largest export industry, means any malfeasance there has a major big-picture impact.

Exact figures are difficult to pin down since the crimes associated with raiding often fall under at least two articles of the criminal code (if they’re reported at all). According to Opendatabot, an open-source platform that collects government data, the number of recorded raider attacks on Ukrainian businesses jumped from 279 in 2014, when the so-called Revolution of Dignity took place, to 724 in 2017 — an increase of more than 150 percent. They dipped slightly last year, to around 650.

But the UAC says that figure is actually higher, claiming that more than 1,000 such incidents against agrarians alone have occurred in just the past 12 months. On average, that would mean several Ukrainian agro-businesses are raided every single day. “With every year, raiders become more inventive and develop new schemes aimed at capturing businesses and land,” Kipriyanova adds.

Yet some analysts are hopeful. Anti-corruption lawyer Oleksandr Lemenov says times under ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and his kleptocratic regime, ousted in 2014, were much tougher. Back then, state-sponsored corruption was so widespread and visible, Lemenov says, that even the son of Ukraine’s then prosecutor general, who served as a national lawmaker, was regularly accused of providing legal cover for such schemes.

Now, Lemenov says the state bureaucracy, while still problematic, has begun opening up. “For us,” he says, “this transparency has allowed us to retain our property rights.” Lemenov and other activists also suggest a newly empowered citizenry is more inclined to report instances of illegal seizure or other forms of corruption and official abuse, creating the impression that crime has spiked when in fact it’s just being reported more consistently.

On the state level, the Ministry of Justice has set up anti-raiding centers in each of Ukraine’s two dozen regions in a bid to help address the problem, though advocates say they have little or no power. And although a draft law designed to crack down on raiding, written with help from the UAC, was submitted last year, it’s yet to be considered more closely by Parliament. Meanwhile, so long as the country’s all-crucial courts remain woefully dependent on shadowy interests, there’s little hope they’ll successfully prosecute cases.

Yet in many ways, Ukraine’s economy hangs in the balance — and its farmers are watching.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 16th, 2019 at 6:43 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at www.waterpolitics.com and frontier investment markets at www.wildcatsandblacksheep.com.