Czech farmers heading east


Czech farmers are heading east. Not so long ago they criticized the fact that farmers from Germany could rent out land in the Czech Republic. Now they themselves are doing the same thing in Ukraine.

Jan Veleba
Many Czech farmers struggling to cope with fierce competition within the European Union have discovered new possibilities further east - in Ukraine. Ukraine has more arable land than it can farm and the Ukrainian government is encouraging Czech farmers to bring their know-how to the former Soviet Republic. Jan Veleba is president of the Czech Agrarian Chamber:

"The Czech Agrarian Chamber received word from the Ukrainian government that there are some 90 thousand hectares of arable land which can be leased out."

Although Czechs are fairly conservative and few make use of business opportunities abroad, the common sense of taking up this offer was obvious to many. The Jevisovice farming cooperative based in Moravia has leased eight thousand hectares of land in Ukraine and the minute there's a chance to buy the land they will snap it up. As Bohumir Rada head of the coop explains, the advantages are considerable:

"The price of diesel fuel is the equivalent of 11 Czech crowns per litre, labour is very cheap and so are fertilizers and all the necessary chemicals."

Already the low price of EU imported farming produce is threatening the livelihood of many Czech farmers. For some of them "going east" might be the only viable alternative. Hugo Roldan, Agriculture Ministry spokesman says that it is expected that the number of farmers looking east will grow:

"It is to be expected that other farmers will follow, but as far as we know there are still a great many administrative barriers for Czech farmers in Ukraine and the ministry would welcome if this process was facilitated as much as possible."

Hugo Roldan says that there are other opportunities opening up in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government wants to use rapeseed as a source of renewable energy and is seeking an investor who would process rape seed into bio-fuel - something for which the Czech Republic - a big rape seed producer itself - has the technology.