News From Ukraine: Russian attacks destroy grain elevator owners’ storage operations

We want to take the time to check in on farmers in Ukraine amid the ongoing war in the country. Today we are hearing from two grain elevator owners who’s storage operation was destroyed by Russian attacks

Latifundist Media has partnered with us to provide boots-on-the-ground coverage:

This is what the Almeida Group grain elevator in Donetsk region looked like before.

And this is what this elevator looks like now, after the Russian occupation.

The founders of the company - two friends, Maksym Volchenko and Mykhailo Kudukhashvili - are experiencing a loss of business for the second time. In 2014, they already lost their grain business in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where they are from. Then they met in Kyiv and chose not to give up. Over the past 8 years, the company built grain storage and became one of the three largest traders in Eastern Ukraine.

“We have been working in those regions for a long time and we are already used to the ever-present risk of a full-scale war. And yet we didn’t expect it to break out.”

The two businessmen recalled how they worked in their native regions.
“We developed step by step, we bought a 50% stake in a small grain elevator, rebuilt it a bit, and later bought the other half.”

The company intended to acquire several new granaries in the Luhansk region.

“Now the facility is destroyed by fire, ruined, shelled. The railway track and weighbridge are intact. Everything else is damaged as badly as possible. Just before the war, we had completed the office, upgraded the laboratory, and updated the equipment. We bought more tracks.

At the moment, the company managers do not know the condition of the equipment that was left there.

“While our troops were still there, we managed to evacuate two-grain trucks, one of which was handed over to the AFU. There was also some minor equipment. All in all, we decided not to take any risks and left it there.”

After the occupation, there was nothing left of the profitable business.

But after the loss of the elevator and about 100 rented railcars that were stationed there, the company quickly pulled itself together. They reoriented the work from trading to logistics and built a terminal for grain transshipment on the border with Romania.

“We found an engineering solution and essentially created a mini transshipment complex on 1 sq. m. Transshipment capacity is an advantage. Storage is more complicated. It is mostly big bags. There are no floor storage facilities. This is an alternative to changing railcars wheelsets.”

Office workers even volunteered in the construction, having switched their computers for work gloves.

That report was powered by Latifundist Media, with USAID support provided through Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities (AGRO) Activity implemented in Ukraine by Chemonics International. For more information, visit their website or follow them on social media.

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