Thursday, 30 September 2010

What’s on Kiev!

Morten Harket and the A-Ha boys are playing a farewell gig later this year and those German masters of the power ballad; the Scorpions are dropping in on their world tour.

Press censorship, banning public assembly, beating up political activists, A-Ha, the Scorpions! Are the eighties back?

Police officers to learn English ahead of Euro 2012

About 40,000 Ukrainian police officers will learn English in preparation for Euro 2012 Football Championship, Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Ratushniak has said.

They will be learning useful phrases like “mind how you go sir”, “may I help you?” and “I think sir has had far too much fun for one evening and it’s probably best if he toddles off to his hotel now.”

Weather & harvest update

Raining pretty much everywhere. Harvesting, landwork and planting all stopped. Time for some servicing and repairs while we sit out two or three forecasted wet days.

Ukraine will decide on grain export restrictions next week

Despite the many regular assurances from the Prime Minister, the President, EBRD, WTO and the Customs Services that Ukraine will not impose grain export restrictions, Ukraine will decide next week whether to impose grain export restrictions.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said “the government is compiling estimates of stockpiles in the country, and depending on the volumes of grain, the government will decide next week whether to regulate the exports or allow them to be free."

"We will have a confident estimation of the grain by the end of the week.”

For “confident estimation” read “vague stab in the dark” which might be what I get if I don’t shut up.

Doing business in Ukraine #2

Tax inspectors paid a visit to a local business in Kherson yesterday.

The business belonged to an opposition mayoral candidate who was wounded during the er, meeting.

Last Friday tax officers visited an agricultural business. During this meeting four people were wounded.

You can see them in action here.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dealing with the thieves

As I write this at about 1am local time the combines are working through the night bringing in sunflowers.

I have a team of security staff out in the field, on the combines, in the trucks and on the weighbridges making sure no one steals the crop.

What I failed to do was site someone in Kiev keeping an eye on the real thieves.

Doing business in Ukraine?

It’s worth bearing in mind that Ukraine comes 142 out of 183 on the ease of doing business ranking.

All that is wrong with Ukraine

The government has asked grain traders bung them 0.5MMT of grain at below market prices and all their export problems would be solved very quickly.

Surprisingly traders turned down this attractive offer and suggested that the state stick it up their hoop.

Now farmers are being asked to bung the state some buckshee grain.

Pardon me for saying this but fuck me! Not content with screwing farmers over by restricting access to lucrative foreign markets the state now wants to reduce what little margin they might have by stealing it.

I’m truly am lost for words.

An abundant harvest of competing agricultural exhibitions

My mate Richard in Lviv has just told me about FOUR agricultural shows on in Kiev this week! Apparently some are a result of arguments between the organisers.

Farmers have a choice of:

Thursday - Quality and Safety of Milk at Expo, Nivka
Thursday - Dutch Technology for Milk at Brovary Prospect 15
Thursday to Saturday - Zloty Osin (Golden Autumn) at VDNH
Friday to Sunday - Zloty Osin (Golden Autumn) at Chubinski

What's the collective noun for agricultural shows? A herd? A clutch?

Multi ploughing is not a euphemism

Not a scene you see every day, three conventional ploughs working in tandem.

I spotted these guys working away this morning, jolly happy in their work they seemed too. They even gave me a cheery wave as I pulled over and took a photo.

Who says Ukraine farming isn't high tech?

Sunflower cups!

I have noticed that as sunflower heads dry out they bend over and invert producing a cup like structure that is ideal for holding water. No wonder they take and age to dry our after a shower.
Because we have had so little rain I have yet to work out if held water evaporates or will drain through the seed head.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sunflowers and wheat

Sunflower harvesting progressing with the combines working well in to the night. They normally stop around 2am as condensation lifts the moisture content.

Wheat planting going ahead with last weeks rain having done wonders to the soil moisture. The earliest sown is now up and growing well in the sunshine.

Showers forecast for today and tomorrow across most of Ukraine.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Irish farmers top EU wheat yield league

Hard work, a cool damp climate and some nifty pest control meant Irish farmers have topped the EU wheat producers league table with an impressive 8.7MT per hectare.

Well done lads.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

One for the bears

An extraordinary meeting of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) heard that the overall harvest in 2010 could be the third highest on record.

The FAO's top grain expert, Abdolreza Abbassian, said "there is always concern about important food security crops such as wheat or rice. However, the spillover effects are nothing like we had in 2007-8, because a lot of other conditions that we had in 2007-8 which led to that sort of situation fortunately are not present".

He means the oil price is more stable.

Appeals from UN leaders that speculators should er, not speculate have unsurprisingly fallen on deaf ears.

That’s a bit like telling a dog not to lick his own gonads.

“I wish I could do that”

“Give him a biscuit and he might let you!”

Is food becoming too expensive?

The FAO is having a big knees up about this very subject in Rome and I bet the buffet will be fantastic. Here in Ukraine the government is withholding grain exports in a vain and ultimately futile attempt to keep food prices down.

Since the end of WWII successive government have pushed cheap food policies through mechanisms such as CAP or central planning depending on which side of the iron curtain you found yourself on.

Cheap food must be a good thing right? Well not exactly.

Food isn’t cheap, never has been; the real cost has just been hidden, externalised and resulted in social and environmental damage.

Social damage because we are losing touch with what food is; where it comes from, the pleasure of it, the basic social engagement involved in growing, cooking and consuming the stuff. For most people the closest they get to growing food is a weekly visit to Tesco’s, not exactly an uplifting experience.

Environmental because we as farmers have had to embrace technology to make the numbers add up. Farmers do not use pesticides because we want too, it's because we have too so we can produce food at the price society has determined it is willing to pay.

This year we produced enough wheat to make about one million loaves of bread and I will be lucky if I see much return on that investment.

Food or at least commodity prices have risen mainly because of speculation but it has generated much chatter about the price of food which must be a good thing.

Food should be expensive; it should be the most expensive thing we buy. How much of your ipod/mercedes/plasma tv can you eat when your hungry?

Friday, 24 September 2010

EBRD gives assurances that the Ukraine government has given assurances that it will not restrict grain exports, honest

The Kyiv Post is reporting that Vassili Lelakis, a board member from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said the Ukrainian government will not restrict grain exports and it expects the issue to be settled soon.

He also went on to say "Liverpool have a sterling chance of lifting some silverware this season". Top man!


...has lifted from 1,500UAH to 1,550UAH (120 to 124GBP).

Not much agreed but it is the first change we have seen in at least a month to an otherwise static market.

Is this a local blip or are we seeing a begining of an upward shift brought about by the gravitational pull from higher European prices?

I hope it's the latter but I think it's the former.

Sunflower harvest... up and running after the rain at the weekend.

I didn't appreciate how much water sunflowers can absorb, I assumed the "heads down" position meant most of the rain would run off but the seeds and flower head are very porous and suck up moisture like a sponge.

The price is going north driven by demand from Russia although I had heard that sunflower crushing capacity in Ukraine significantly exceeds the domestic supply so there might be some local drivers.

Earlier this week the price was 3,400UAH (273GBP) and today we are being quoted 3,800UAH (305GBP).

All we need now is an export ban on sunflowers! Which reminds me, my contacts are telling me the export ban on wheat is less stringently applied to Russia and Russia has hoovered up (his words) all the seed wheat. Why all the demand for seed wheat when Russian plantings are forecast down? Different export restrictions apply to seed wheat. Clever eh!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

News flash, almost

The Korrespondent-Ukraine quoted an unidentified government official on September 17 as saying that the de facto ban would last until October 31, the date of local elections.

The Agronomy-Ukraine blog quoted an unidentified chancer called, shall we say Mr Mike on August 17 as saying "my guess is the quota will be lifted some time after the local elections in October".

James Marson writes a succinct article on the grain export ban (here) although I don't agree with his take on the land moratorium issue for reasons I have discussed before.

Plenty of farming businesses manage without security of land tenure, it is, in my humble opinion a bit of a red herring.


The rain has stopped so we should start drilling wheat again very soon, certainly today. The sunflowers will take a little longer to dry out and we will be testing the moisture all day until it reaches less than 8%.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Plant Populations and Crop Yield

I thought it timely to discuss wheat seed rates to achieve the correct plant density (plant population) to obtain the optimum yield.

If the plants are widely spaced then not all of the land area is covered by leaves and much of the light available for photosynthesis is not intercepted.

If the plant density is increased to allow all of the sunlight to be intercepted than a positive yield increase will occur.

As the space between the individual plants decreases then neighbouring plants begin to interfere with each other (known as intraspecific competition) and yield from the individual plant will decrease, although the crop yield will increase.

This is because, despite each plant not fulfilling its full potential production, a more efficient use of the limiting factors for growth is being made by the crop. This is particularly true with respect to the efficiency of utilisation of sunlight and the ability of the crop canopy to capture more light at higher plant populations.

As the population increases yield response will start to diminish until a plateau is reached when no further yield response to plant population can be achieved.

In biological terms the optimum plant population is at the point where the plateau starts, in practice the optimum is lower than this when seed costs are taken into account.

So what is the optimum plant population? Here in Ukraine I target 400ppm until the end of the September then increase to 500ppm until mid October when I will stop planting.


Kiev - dry, sunny, blue skies, cool: Central Ukraine - raining.

Forecast is for a settled period from Wednesday which will help the sunflower harvest and wheat drilling.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A bullish day perhaps but what does it all mean for Ukraine?

Wheat up as London hits 170GBP for the first time in two years; Paris wheat rises 1.2% to 236EUR; Chicago up 1.1% to 7.47USD a bushel.

Dave Nogger writes about the why’s and wherefores of market trading in great detail, I want to concentrate on what the impact might be here in Ukraine.

As the difference between the world market and the local price has widened, the pressure on local traders must be building and at some point the pull will surely outweigh the inertia.

Will we see sudden and dramatic price realignment as a result?

The block on wheat exports has done a fair job at keeping the local price at 1,500UAH (121GBP) for the last month and as far as I know customs still hold 24 ships in port on drummed up technical charges.

But customs can’t spin out delays indefinitely with out admitting that what they have really been up to was imposing a state sanctioned grain export ban in direct contravention of WTO rules. Even the WTO might be forced in to publicly asking some questions to save face.

Customs will have to give in at some point and probably soon.

Sunflower harvest is well underway and selling at buoyant prices which will ease the need for growers to sell wheat to generate cash to pay for seed and diesel for the current plantings.

Wheat supply might not dry up exactly but may well become a little firmer.

As we move in to October I think we will see some better wheat prices as all these holds start to lose grip and to be honest 300UAH extra would make a big difference to a lot of businesses budgets right now.

It all feels a bit like the calm before the storm.

What does WTO stand for?

The WTO came back with a response to my question about what the WTO position is on current restrictions imposed on exporting grain from Ukraine?

"As an exception to general rules on trade, a member of the WTO can impose export prohibitions or restrictions on condition that they are temporarily applied to prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to that country."

Presumably if a member was to impose restrictions the definition of "critical shortages" would need to be determined. This is academic anyway as Ukraine is not imposing any export prohibitions or restrictions on wheat, just ask the owners of all that grain currently stuck in port.


Steadily falling rain within a weather front that is moving west to east across Ukraine.

It rains mainly on the steppe

Plenty of rain about and it looks settled in for a day or two.

Harvesting sunnies and drilling wheat has stopped as a result but will resume at the earliest opportunity.

It's funny stuff this soil; to be honest I'm still learning it's peculiar characteristics. It can get absolutely soaked but with some sun and wind can be fit to drill again in two days. I think you would call it very free draining.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Weather or not?

Grey and overcast in Kiev today, overnight rain but not much to write about. Overcast in central Ukraine but no rain yet.

Wheat drilling going flat out as is the sunflower harvest.

Friday, 17 September 2010

WTO and export restrictions

As the WTO failed to answer my question on what their position was on export restrictions I had to resort to trawling through their massive website.

This was buried in a press release on accession back in 2008:

"Export restrictions: Upon accession, export bans on nonferrous scrap metal will be eliminated and Ukraine will remove export restrictions on grains, as well as those on precious metals and stones other than gold, silver, and diamonds."


Still bone dry pretty much everywhere. Rain is forecast for this weekend but how much and where it actually falls is starting to become crucial.

We could do with some on the oilseed rape but holding off the sunflowers.

Business Ukrainian Style

The guy who was offering 3,500UAH for sunflowers yesterday had a butchers at what came off the combine last night and unsurprisingly said “it’s not clean enough” so came back with a lower price.

There is nothing wrong with the sample. This is an example of how business is conducted in Ukraine; the business ethic is essentially “feck you”.

We have another buyer on stand by and if that’s no good I’ll put the stuff in the shed and watch the price rise as the Russian export ban kicks in.

Indeed, feck you sir.

I’m just waiting for my man

Strategie Grains are suggesting that the amount of EU wheat fit for milling has fallen by 15MMT thanks to rain at harvest which presumably lowered hagbergs.

I know where you can get shed loads of quality milling grade wheat at very reasonable prices. One slight problem, it’s stuck in Ukraine. I can fill my suitcase, hand luggage and pockets and will be in Amsterdam by tea time with thirty kilos of pure grade, finest Ukrainian if anyone is interested.

Cash on deliver, no questions.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


There's a big ship in port desperate to find a load of sunflowers and Crimea has yet to start combining.

Consequently we are seeing 3,500UAH (284GBP) straight off the field but word has it that once the ship is loaded we will see prices slide to sub 3,000UAH (243GBP).

Wheat prices are holding steady at 1,500UAH (121GBP) which is good but not as good as 2,300UAH milling wheat is currently trading at in Europe.

Another 200-300UAH would make a world of difference to a lot of farmers budgets.

Quote of the week

When I asked a senior Ukrainian agronomist how he calculated his seed rates he replied “instinct”.

Oh Lord help us, listen closely Cletus;

seedrate = target plant population x thousand grain weight / estimated establishment

Got that?

2010 grain harvest spin

Latest figures suggest Ukraine's grain harvest will total 38.6 MMT in 2010 and exports in the current marketing year (July 2010-June 2011) will total 12.7 MMT.

Bearing in mind that this is the third time the ministry has reviewed grain figures this year and no one knows for sure how much grain they have in store once inaccurate yield assessments, storage losses, rents are paid (in grain) and “shrinkage” has all finally been taken in to account, then I would treat these figures with caution.
The head of the Ukrainian Grain Union, Volodymyr Klymenko, forecast that grain exports would total about 15 MMT. With all due respect he would say that wouldn’t he.

He did go on to say a little more informatively that “exports might include 6 MMT of wheat, 4 MMT of barley and 5 MMT of corn”. Did you spot that small innocuous word “might” in there, changes the whole statement if you spotted it.

England might win Euro 2012.

Euro 2012 championship slogan

Kyiv City Administration has announced the winner of its much anticipated competition to find the slogan for the Euro 2012 football tournament. And the winner is…

“Kyiv 2012. Europe without borders, Soccer without limits!”

Soccer!! FOOTBALL numb nuts. Plus I have wasted countless hours in passport control so Europe with out borders is just a lie.

Second came; “Kyiv 2012. The shrine of soccer!” Eh?

Third was a marketing tag previously used for an escort service; “Play with Ukraine and win in Kyiv!”

Fourth came “Kyiv - host of soccer world!” oh jeez!.

Fifth; “Golden gates of the soccer championship.” Stop calling it soccer!

What about “Footie fans coming to Kyiv, be sure to bring plenty of cash cos the rozzers will steal it off you!” Or “Kyiv, home of football, home of rigged elections” or my favourite “Kyiv – it's a gas!”

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Customs service denies blocking grain exports

Deputy Customs Chief Serhiy Semka denied claims that the State Customs Service is creating artificial obstacles to grain exports.

"I can assure you there are no artificially created delays” said Serhiy whilst heroically managing to keep a straight face.

"Also, we have spotted flying pigs over Simferopol and are in discussions with the younger sister of Elvis Presley."

What is the opposite of artificial? In this case it's very much official.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Yanukovych in Brussels today

Yanukovych is in Brussels today having discussions on the DCFTA. S'cuse me? That's the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

He's also discussing an Association Agreement that would put Ukraine on par with Norway and Switzerland in terms of single market laws and would pave the way for a formal application to join the club in the next three to five years.

Now that would be interesting, I wonder what would happen to the price of land then?


Wheat prices have taken a slight dip this morning to 1,450 UAH, helped no doubt by all the boats being held hostage. Sunflowers have risen slightly to 3,100 UAH.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Wheat holding steady at 1,500 UAH (190 USD); sunflower harvest is underway and prices are being quoted around 3,000 UAH (379 USD).

Russia is hinting that the export ban might be extended to sunflowers and maize.

It’s not just me then

Andriy Yarmak has an interesting and informed perspective on the grain export ban (here).

Cash-strapped farmers are again being forced to sell their crop at lower prices so that the government can go into local elections in October chanting the same old political slogan: “Bread prices will not increase” writes Andriy.

The average Ukrainian consumes about 110 kilograms of bread annually which costs each Ukrainian 275 UAH annually.

If the price of bread went up by 20%, it would cost each consumer about 55UAH more per year (0.15 UAH or 0.01 GBP per day).

Good point well put Andriy.

When is an export ban not an export ban?

“The Ukrainian government does not plan to introduce any grain export restrictions” Ukrainian Premier Azarov said yesterday.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, stop please, my sides are splitting!

He went further "I want to say we don’t plan any export restrictions. We gathered grain traders and told them openly what volume can be shipped abroad to draw up an export schedule, so that it would not disrupt our price stability and our grain stocks”.

So that’s a restriction on grain exports then.

Elvis spotted!

Driving back from the farm yesterday I saw Rod Stewart riding a bicycle through a village, honest. What are you doing in deepest Ukraine Rod? He looked slightly wobbly on his bike too, been at the sauce again eh?

Half an hour late I spotted Elvis Presley’s younger sister! I must get my camera fixed.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wheat plantings, some thoughts

Start drilling wheat this week, always a dilemma to know how many plants to stick in the round.

In the UK the usual practice was to aim for around 200 plants per meter which would give two to three tillers and 600 plus ears by harvest. Pretty straight forward.

In Ukraine it’s more complicated than that. Tillering capacity is very low. I have had plants in the autumn and spring with two tillers only to watch them disappear in the late spring early summer.

The logical thing would be to plant 600 plus seeds per meter as was the old way but that creates problems of it’s own with dense canopies, leggy plants and high cost.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Ukraine is just not suited to high(er) yielding cereal production and 4t is probably a more realistic target than 5t.

Experts all over say that Ukraine has the potential to produce a great deal more than it currently does. I presume based on the simplistic assumption that yields in western Europe are higher and therefore these yields can be replicated here. I’m not so sure.

I don’t think winter is the problem, I think summer heat is the limiting factor.

I have watched wheat plants over several seasons and the pattern is the same – well established in the autumn, looking good, looking good, winter, plants emerge from beneath the snow and look OK, sun, nitrogen, start looking good again, spring rain, warmer temperatures, looking good, looking really good, looking great, summer heat, looking crap! Ahh! What happened?

I’ll be plumping for 400ppm going up to 500ppm and budget for lower yields, that is until plant breeders start producing varieties suited to commercial production in Ukraine.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Political animals

I thought a brief summary of the political landscape might be helpful.

Viktor Yanukovych was elected President in 2004 in what was considered as a rigged election. People took to the streets to protest in the Orange Revolution.

The Supreme Court annulled the election and ordered a revote; this time Viktor Yushchenko of the opposition wins.

The future was bright, the future was orange! Or so everyone thought.

Six years later Viktor Yushchenko and his Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are embroiled in an internal power struggle that all but paralyses the government.

Viktor Yanukovych capitalised on the political in fighting and makes the most unlikely come back to win the Presidential post in February this year.

He then sets about smoozing the IMF in to lending him $15 billion by agreeing to austere budget reforms.

In the meantime he is accused by many of taking Ukraine back to the bad old days; the media complain of censorship; protestors complain they aren’t being allowed to protest and opposition parties complain he is taking power and control from the state and instigating a dictatorship.

Yanukovych plays the anti-corruption card and starts in on the previous administration with threats of legal action against ex-ministers. This is seen as a bit rich from the guy who nearly stole the election back in 2004

The opposition (now split) accuse Yanukovych of deflecting interest away from his own corruption by attacking the former ministers.

The honeymoon is over. Yanukovych’s approval ratings take a hammering as the IMF austerity conditions kick in. Gas prices rise; the age of retirement for women is increased; the cost of travelling on the metro goes up to two hrivnya and the threat of increased bread prices becomes a real possibility.

There you have it, Ukraine's recent political history, colour coded and in a nutshell.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Grain pain

If we needed proof that the unofficial, none existent wheat export ban is in fact in full swing then here it is; it has been reported today that customs have blocked 24 ships holding 379,647 MT of wheat without any explanation.

Ukraine exported 653,191 MT of wheat in the first two months of the new season compared to 1.79 million MT in the same period last year.

Clever me!

By mixing in some home saved seed I have reduced oilseed rape seed costs from $56/ha to $42/ha giving a saving of $14/ha or if you like 25%. On 1,500ha that’s a total saving of $21,000. Good eh!

By using minimal cultivations I have reduced the establishment cost by a whopping $42/ha when compared to usual Ukrainian practice of recreational cultivations - plough, disc, roll, disc again, roll, disc, drill and roll.

Seedbeds look great, the crop is emerging beautifully, a robust herbicide mix of metazachlor and clomazone is working a treat, very happy.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Weather, what’s it gonna do?

The weather in Ukraine flicks like a switch I kid you not. One minute we are in the middle of a sweltering summer heatwave and then bang, autumn arrives overnight.

Temperatures have returned to near normal and it feels like we should start sowing wheat; just finishing off the last oilseed rape field and after a quick service of the drill we will crack on.

Rather worryingly my local farm team is telling me that everyone is predicting that winter will arrive at the end of October and a big freeze will set in lasting until the spring.

“What rubbish! I was wearing shirt sleeves in November last year” I said, feeling a bit like Napoleon scoffing his advisors when they told him how chilly the Russian winter really could get and he should pack an extra set of undies before setting off to conquer Moscow.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Buckwheat supplies discussed at cabinet meeting

Not a headline you would expect to see anywhere but Ukraine...and perhaps Russia.

Buckwheat, a staple of Ukrainian diet and mighty tasty to boot, has increased in price so much so that Prime Minister Azarov thought it was an appropriate item to include on the cabinet agenda last Thursday.

If you’re a student in soviet style rhetoric you can read the full transcript here. What got me and it really shouldn’t by now was his lack of understanding of how in a free market economy the government should just bugger off out of it and pretty much let things sort themselves out.

“I just want to warn” he said ominously “those who intend to use the rush and get into a citizens’ purse, will immediately meet the harsh reaction from the State.”

I sometimes wonder if I will get to find out what a “harsh reaction from the State" will mean. Was that the doorbell? Gulag anyone?

Johnny the chimpanzee dies

After a quiet summer at the zoo Johnny, who arrived several weeks ago, peeled his last banana.

Reports suggest that first his health condition was satisfactory, but it suddenly deteriorated and he just died. RIP Johnny.

See the full zoo death league table here.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Wax on, wax off

While the UK sits in front of the telly watching England Bulgaria some of us have been out and about making sure there is enough grub to eat next year.

I'm not bitter but I have just got home after battling the Kiev traffic, idiots is not strong enough, believe me, kamikaze perhaps.

Anyhoo my point is, if there is one is that we have had some decent rain this week and pretty much all the oilseed rape is in the ground and looking good, wheat seedbeds have been replenished and are also looking good, sunflower harvest is about to start and prices are looking good, soya might be a bit of a problem but on the whole I'm basically positive.

You have to be in this game - a bit like watching England eh? "Zen and the Art of Crop Production" will be my next book.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Yes Minister

This all reminds me of a quote from the excellent Yes Minister on civil service language:

"Sometimes one is forced to consider the possibility that affairs are being conducted in a manner which, all things being considered and making all possible allowances is, not to put too fine a point on it, perhaps not entirely straightforward."

Translation: 'You are lying'.

It’s officially unofficial!

The officially unofficial restriction on grain export is officially not being imposed with Ukraine's Customs Service unofficially almost completely officially restricting grain exports.

And they have strengthened recently imposed additional grain quality checks, traders said on Tuesday.

"The situation has become even more difficult. Last week we were able to ship some grain, but this week all shipments are blocked in ports by customs," said one Ukrainian trader. He said his company could not get any explanation from customs officials.

Read a fuller account here.

What a place to do business!

Aologies for the lack of blogs, been absolutely hectic here.

Oilseed rape sowing nearly finished with metazachlor and clomazone going on as a pre-emergence herbicide. Soil conditions are bone dry as is normal this time of year, seed will sit in the soil until rain appears. And rain is starting to fall with the earliest drilled oilseed rape just starting to germinate.

Wheat will follow the oilseed rape, aiming for 350 to 400 plants per meter. Will use liberal amounts of pendamethlin. Have just bought some Syngenta Defy nozzles, hope to see an improvement in weed control as a result, will let you know how this works.

Sunflowers are looking good and harvest will start in the next week or so. The price is firm with offers coming in around 3,000UAH straight off the combine.

Maize is looking very sorry for itself and various reports are cutting crop yields as I write. I have seen a lot of maize written off and cut for cattle feed so at least they can get in a winter wheat crop in; I just hope they have checked the herbicide carry over.

Soya is looking variable with the “I can’t believe it’s not GM” soya still very green even after the dry summer.

The government have left it to the local administration to impose restrictions on moving and exporting grain thus creating a grain embargo by default and thereby not contravening any IMF/WTO rules. Sneaky!

The regional administration is on our backs suggesting ways in which all our problems will go away!

Getting reports of grain being stolen, to be honest I would worry if we didn’t get reports of stuff being stolen.

It’s a hard place to do business and sometimes it feels easier to just throw in the towel and bugger off somewhere else to make a living.

I always fancied Canada, any jobs going in Canada, anyone?