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How tariffs and drones saved Ukrainian agriculture

Apr 2

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Ukraine is among the top agricultural producers globally, with its farming sector employing 14 percent of the population and generating 41 percent of export earnings. Previous concerns about Russia obstructing Ukraine’s grain exports and causing global food shortages have been largely resolved.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan describes how changes in global politics and military strategies are helping Ukraine’s agriculture make a comeback in the market. One new factor is the use of Ukrainian drones, which have been very effective in pushing Russian ships out of parts of the Black Sea, enabling grain exports to resume.

Excerpted from Peter’s April 2 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Ukrainian agricultural exports are finally having the boot lifted from their throats thanks to new tariffs on certain goods in the EU and Ukraine’s adoption of water-based drones.

Exporting Ukrainian agricultural products has been no easy feat; between Russian bombardment, infrastructure attacks, and European interdictions on Ukrainian goods, there wasn’t much movement early on in the conflict. Between the proposed tariffs by the French and some recent success with water-based drones, Ukraine might finally be able to get some product out.

These new tarrifs will free up the markets for Ukraine’s primary revenue-generating products, wheat and sunflower. The recent water-based drone attacks on Russian vessels have helped to reestablish the grain corridor through NATO territories, easing pressure further.

Although this is just a small victory for the Ukrainians, restoring their ability to earn through agricultural exports could help ease tensions across the board.

Hey everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado a quick update on the trade and war situation in Europe, specifically Ukraine. It appears we have or they have solved the problem of getting Ukrainian agricultural goods to market. So the quick backdrop is that because of the Russian war, the Russians were bombing in places like Odessa and interdicting ships on the Black Sea and by water is how the Ukrainians ship out well over 80% of their agricultural output, or at least before the war it was. But nobody wanted to get hit by a Russian missile. So basically, everything got locked up in port, and we had backlogs throughout the entire system. The cranium started shoe ship things by rail west into the European Union, they couldn’t get nearly as much out at most 1/3 of what they could do, based on product and some products less than 10%. But every kilometer that the Ukrainian stuff was in a rail car was a kilometer of tonne rails that the Europeans could not use. So the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Slovaks and the poles, the border states in particular, were getting cheesed off because they’re farmers were having a hard time getting their crops to market. And so they would say you could transit but you can’t actually sell that here. Well, if you have to go all the way to Germany, that’s a lot of ton miles that were suddenly not available for everything else. So it wasn’t a very tenable, such a solution. So these countries may, on the whole be very pro Ukraine, but they don’t want to destroy their own agricultural sectors to do it. So two things have changed. First, the French the French have gotten involved though the French are arguably among the most agriculturally protectionist countries in the world. And none of the stuff was coming to France. But the French economy is roughly as large as all of the Border States put together. And so when the French did decide to get involved, it had an impact at the European level very quickly. And they were looking at some of the secondary products that were coming in things like poultry, and eggs, and honey, and corn, and oats. And they’re like, Okay, we produce all of these things. And all these things aren’t necessarily making it to France, they are making it to Central Europe, which is depressing prices within the European Union. So how about we do this? We do we give everyone in Europe the ability put tariffs on the products that we care about. And in doing that, we then open up the ability for everything else, most notably wheat and sunflower, which are the Ukrainians big moneymakers. No, everyone in the border states accrues wheat, but by freeing up and some categories, then things could go elsewhere. And things could basically be shuffled around, the French got happy, and it took some of the pressure off of everything else. That was part one. Part two is a Ukrainian military strategy using drones. They basically been refitting small a jet boats and jet skis and going in force after Russian vessels, especially Russian landing vessels. Well, in the last few days, they’ve taken out another two, or at least heavily damaged another two as long as as well as a spy ship that allows the Russians to identify where launch sites and radar sites are. And what this has had, the net effect of doing is clearing the entire western half of the Black Sea of Russian vessels and forcing the Russians to fall all the way back to an overseas and maybe even to epsa on the eastern side of the Black Sea, which puts most of the western half of the Black Sea out of a range of even Russian missiles. So this is opened up a green export quarter going down the western side of the Black Sea, through NATO territory, specifically Romania and Bulgaria and Turkey, to the Turkish straits and out to the Aegean, in the wider world, you do that you take pressure off those bulk commodities like sunflower and wheat. So I don’t mean to suggest that this is solved, and I don’t mean to suggest that everyone has gotten everything that they want. But a lot of the pressures that we were seeing that were locking up the cargo shipments are now gone, or at least severely ameliorated. And all of a sudden, Ukraine, again, has its single largest line item export earner back and that will help everyone because the more that the Ukrainians can put their own money into the war, the less pressure that will be politically on everyone else.

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