Ukrainian-Czech Chamber of Commerce head: Ukrainian economy must not go bankrupt

Petr Krogman

This week saw the establishment of the Ukrainian-Czech Chamber of Commerce. The organisation will support business cooperation between the two countries both during and after the war. To find out what this cooperation may look like, I spoke to the President of the Chamber Petr Krogman, a Czech businessman who owns a major agricultural company in Ukraine.

“Ukraine has to win this war, because Ukraine fights not just for itself but also for our freedom. It fights to prevent the Russian army being in Central Europe in two years’ time.

“The war will last for months, perhaps years. We know that Russia loves frozen conflicts, but we need to do business also in the meantime, so we must start immediately. We must not let the Ukrainian economy go bankrupt. It must work. It must go on. Ukrainians are ready to do that and we must help them.”

Since 2018, Czech companies have exported CZK 30 billion worth of products to Ukraine, of which roughly 60 percent were related to machinery and transport vehicles. Are these the sectors where you see most potential for cooperation between the Czech and Ukrainian business spheres, or are there some other ones that you would like to mention?

“This is mainly related to the automotive and machinery sectors and they will remain important areas of business.

“However, the reconstruction of Ukraine will be even more important and will also present a big opportunity for Czech companies. It will be necessary to rebuild shipment capacities and railroads.

“We should also note the construction industry, a lot of materials will be necessary for Ukraine. I also think that the railroads of Ukraine should be reconstructed towards European standards. That means the track gauges being built with European rather than Russian width.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“This will also help connect and integrate Ukraine more into Europe while at the same time creating a natural barrier with Russia. The latter, as our recent experiences have shown, is pretty important.”

Ukraine is one of the chief grain exporters in the world. Its agricultural produce fed 400 million people before the war. You yourself are the owner of a company that ranks among Ukraine’s top 30 agricultural producers and some of your fields are occupied by the Russian army. What prospects do you see in this – agricultural - sector for cooperation between the two countries?

“The Czech Republic is producing enough grain, so it doesn’t need to import grain or agricultural products from Ukraine, maybe just some sunflower oil.

“What Czech companies could do, is help with Ukraine’s transhipment capacities. We have quite an experienced construction industry, so this could perhaps be a way of cooperating with Ukraine.

“However, I wouldn’t see Ukrainian agricultural commodities being the main issue in the Czech Republic.”

I wasn’t talking so much about grain imports but rather about agricultural machinery for example.

“Oh, yes, there are many Czech companies that are exporting machinery to Ukraine, such as Strom Praha, or Farmet. We are already buying these companies’ machinery and using it in Ukraine.”

What companies have already joined the Ukrainian-Czech Chamber of Commerce and could you tell us which sectors they are from?

“We have 10 founding members and approximately 20 other companies that are talking about joining the Chamber.

“As far as the areas of business are concerned, our members include Ravak, which is a big Czech company that has a factory near Kyiv where they employ hundreds of Ukrainian workers and produce equipment for flats, such as showers.

“Our founders also include lawyers and, of course, agricultural companies. We have other companies ranging across the agriculture, business and service sectors.”

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