8th FORUM PeaceBread on the situation and prospects of Ukrainian agriculture

Don’t wait for peace, invest in Ukraine now!

f.l.t.r.: Dr. Olga Trofimtseva, Anton Blöth, Catarina Zanner, Matthias Berninger, Dr. Gibfried Schenk

In times of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the FORUM PeaceBread 2023 once again provided an impressive platform for discussions on the inseparable link between peace and agriculture. In their discussion, Dr Olga Trofimtseva and Matthias Berninger emphasised that it is crucial not to wait for peace, but to invest in Ukraine immediately in order to secure agriculture and supplies. Challenges in agriculture and agricultural policy as well as the role of the EU in global agricultural policy were discussed in depth. Dr Alexander Lissitsa, last year’s discussion partner and connected online, closed the FORUM with an urgent appeal for investment in the future of Ukraine and thus Europe.

Anton Blöth

On 12 October 2023, the eighth edition of the FORUM PeaceBread took place in the Visitor Centre of the Berlin Wall Memorial. Anton Blöth, Chairman of the PeaceBread Association, welcomed numerous participants, friends, sponsors, members and guests. The FORUM PeaceBread has now established itself as a small but excellent dialogue platform and is already a “good tradition”, said Blöth in his welcoming address. However, the annual and ongoing focus on the war in Ukraine and its (also global) consequences in agriculture and rural areas should not become a good tradition, said the Chairman. He emphasised the inseparable link between agriculture and peace and pointed out the harrowing reality of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, which continues to keep the world on tenterhooks and cause great concern. This was also evident at the most recent International PeaceBread Conference “Peace and Agriculture” in Slovakia at the end of September, as Blöth reported.

Prof. Alexander Klausmeier

Dennis Kraaijeveld

On behalf of the two partner organisations of FORUM PeaceBread, the Berlin Wall Foundation and the Club of Agricultural Diplomats in Berlin, Prof. Alexander Klausmeier and the Dutch agricultural diplomat Dennis Kraaijeveld, who stood in for the unable to attend chairperson, Eivina Žižiūnaitė-Allbaz, expressed their points of view. Both emphasised not only their desire for peace in Ukraine, but also for other conflict regions such as Israel and the Middle East. They emphasised the relevance of communication channels and platforms to promote understanding and peace worldwide. Prof Klausmeier placed particular emphasis on the symbolic significance of the rye field around the Chapel of Reconciliation and the resulting peace bread. He reminded the audience that peace and food are by no means a given and that we must continue to work and campaign for them. Both Klausmeier and Kraaijeveld pledged their continued support for PeaceBread association and network, especially for the upcoming anniversary celebrations, which are planned under the motto “10 years of PeaceBread – 35 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall” from 30 September to 2 October 2024, to which Chairman Blöth had already cordially invited those gathered.

The panel discussion with Dr Olga Trofimtseva and Matthias Berninger, moderated by RBB journalist Catarina Zanner, delved into the bitter reality of Ukrainian agriculture at war from the very first minute.

Dr Trofimtseva, a Ukrainian expert with a wide range of professional experience in business, science and politics, described the current, worrying war situation in Ukraine, particularly in the countryside and on farms. She reported on targeted attacks by the Russian aggressor on agricultural infrastructure, enormous resource shortages on farms and impressive efforts to keep Ukrainian agriculture running and adapt to changing market conditions.

Dr. Olga Trofimtseva

Matthias Berninger

Matthias Berninger, responsible for global public affairs and sustainability issues in the Bayer Group, presented his company’s efforts in and for Ukraine. He emphasised that it is necessary not to wait for peace, but to invest immediately and ensure that Ukrainian farmers can continue to work and that their farms survive. Bayer is involved, for example, with the free distribution of vegetable seeds, support for mine clearance on agricultural land and the reintegration of injured people into the labour market.

Both experts emphasised the serious liquidity bottlenecks that many agricultural companies are facing. It is predicted that up to 40% of smaller farms (200 to 500 hectares) could go out of business by 2024. Berninger estimated that the war has already destroyed or at least taken half of Ukraine’s agricultural production out of production since February 2022. These developments have a negative impact on supply in Ukraine and worldwide. They could jeopardise the existing balancing mechanisms on international agricultural markets, which would have far-reaching negative consequences, especially for developing countries.

Both Berninger and Trofimtseva underlined the strategic and power-political approach of countries such as Russia and China in matters of agriculture, agricultural and agricultural trade policy. They called for the EU to take an equally active and strategic approach in order to strengthen its position as an “agricultural superpower” (which, according to Trofimtseva, it would become after Ukraine’s accession) and influence global agricultural policy. This requires both political will and concrete measures, which must be tackled by the next EU Commission at the latest in order to achieve an accession date in 2030, which Ukraine at least hopes for.

Afterwards, Managing Director Dr Gibfried Schenk summarised the PeaceBread association’s most important activities, as he does every year at this location, and announced that the topic of “youth and youth exchange” is increasingly becoming the focus of the association and its international network.

Dr. Gibfried Schenk

At the end of the FORUM PeaceBread 2023, Dr Alexander Lissitsa also appealed to all participants in an online interview not to wait for peace, but to invest in Ukraine now. As an agricultural entrepreneur in Ukraine (and last year’s guest at FORUM PeaceBread 2022), who is also actively seeking the urgently needed financial support for the Ukrainian agricultural sector on the international stage, he described the grim reality of the war in his company and in the country. He criticised Western companies that are still doing business with Russia and called on them to invest in agriculture and thus in the future of Ukraine.

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