A Ukrainian farmer promotes organic production

27 June 2023
ITC News

For Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day 2023, we celebrate small entrepreneurs from all over the world. Small businesses account for 90% of the world's businesses, 60 to 70% of employment, and 50% of the global economy. They contribute to local and national economies and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

On 2,000 hectares of land in the Ukrainian region of Odessa, Danube Agrarian defies the hardships of war to grow organic produce. They’ve managed to stay afloat with ITC support for training and trade missions,

‘We are growing organic products breeding a new generation of conscious people willing to live in a healthy society, on a healthy land and in a healthy country,’ says Ukrainian farmer Roman Dyazhuk.

With more than 100 employees, Danube Agrarian grows carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet peppers, peaches, apples, watermelons, and other crops. Sheep and chickens bred here are treated like pets.

Roman isn’t afraid to experiment with new crops and products. He attends international shows and workshops to adopt global best practices that he uses in Ukraine. Recently, Danube Agrarian began creating processed organic products. Their jams, eggplant sauce, melon in chocolate, and pastilles have already received recognition at international trade fairs.

The invasion by Russia in 2022 threw the farm and thousands of other small businesses into jeopardy.

‘The war greatly influenced our development. Many women and children – our main consumers – were forced to leave. Men joined the army,’ Roman said. ‘Some of our agronomists left for internships in other countries. So we felt the lack of skilled workers. And we experienced logistics challenges.’

Despite the difficulties, Ukrainian farmers support each other through profitable collaborations. That’s what Danube Agrarian did with Ukrainian Sun-Dried Tomatoes, an enterprise from the Kherson.

‘Around the village where they used to work, active hostilities continued. I invited Andriy, the head of the farm, to move in with us. He agreed and now uses our organic tomatoes for his products,’ Roman said.

The farmer admits that his team had to work hard to maintain sales markets, establish new logistics, and maintain their positions during the war. And they succeeded. Their grains, fruits and vegetables are exported to the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany and France.

Cooperation with international partners became possible largely thanks to trade missions organized by ITC.

After a study visit to Sweden in 2019, Danube Agrarian understood that boosting exports to the EU would require getting their farming and labour practices certified with the GlobalG.A.P. and GRASP benchmarks. With ITC support, the farm prepared for the voluntary certification programme, which requires keeping high standards of food safety, quality and social practices every year.

The Ukrainian producer regularly participates in collective stands organized by ITC at major international trade fairs like Gulfood in Dubai, SIAL Paris, and Fruit Logistica and Anuga in Germany. At these shows, Roman and his colleagues have established long-lasting contacts and concluded agreements with new clients.

Today, the farm continues to explore new markets and collaborations, while creating innovative products gaining popularity among organic consumers.

‘One component of our success is our willingness to experiment, to be ourselves, to constantly move forward,’ Roman said. ‘And I can give the same advice to other Ukrainian entrepreneurs, even in the conditions in which we find ourselves now. We want people to take care of their health and consume certified organic products. Therefore, we are constantly improving approaches to growing and production and obtaining the necessary certificates.