Farmers whose work on Ukraine’s fertile land has long been vital to its economy fear losing their livelihoods after Russia this week quit a wartime deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of grain.

Ukraine is a major exporter of grains and sunflower oil, including to Middle Eastern and African nations. The deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 was designed to enable Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea despite a Russian blockade and to combat a global food crisis.

Agricultural exports are crucial for Ukraine’s economy, making up about 12% of gross domestic product before Russia’s invasion in February 2022 and about 60% of all exports.

Of the 60,000 tons of produce grown on Huizinga’s land last year, 50,000 tons were sent abroad through the grain deal.

In total, Ukraine has been able to export 33 million tons of agricultural products through the deal.

Closures feared

The main remaining route for agricultural produce out of Ukraine is the Danube River, which runs along Ukraine’s southwestern border with Romania.

Some of Ukraine’s western neighbors have restricted imports of Ukrainian grain under pressure from their farmers, who said they were suffering from the added competition.

Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, the country’s largest agribusiness organization, has estimated that Ukraine’s Danube ports can carry up to 3 million tons a month, nowhere near enough to cover its export potential.

Ukraine expects to harvest 44 million tons of grain this year, down from a record 86 million-ton harvest in 2021.