By Jesus Madrazo
Vice President, Corporate Engagement
The following is based on remarks at the US-Ukraine Conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Dec.13.
Agriculture and food production are key drivers in our global economy, sitting at the crossroads of some of the most important issues facing society – growing population, food demand and the need to preserve natural resources. At Monsanto, we’re focused on sustainable agriculture, which, very simply, is producing more with fewer resources while improving the lives of farmers.
Farmers are part of the backbone of any country, and especially so in Ukraine, long known as the “bread basket of Europe” because of farmers’ access to favorable soils and growing conditions. Those two factors have helped position Ukrainian farmers to contribute significantly to help meet food demands.
As a company, we are committed to Ukrainian agriculture today and in the future. We’ve been active in the country since 1992 and have well-established operations. We currently supply corn, oilseed rape and vegetable seed as well as agrochemicals to both small farmers and leading agro companies across the country.
As agriculture expands in Ukraine, so, too, do our operations and the job opportunities we provide. Last year the number of our employees doubled.
We see significant growth opportunities in the corn market, and last year and this year our seed production hectares have grown. We’ve also invested in irrigation systems to help support sustainable seed production. In addition, we’re committed to support Ukrainian farmers in reaching the government’s and farmers’ goal to produce 80 million metric tons of grain annually.
To help support this growth, we’re planning to invest in a new a seed production facility for conventional corn seed. We currently produce about 40 percent of our seeds for Ukraine’s market within the country, and a new production facility would allow us to produce more locally. In addition, the facility would provide new jobs. We’re an active member and supporter of the communities where we operate, and we’re strongly committed to conducting our business in a responsible and transparent way.
I also want to stress the importance of creating a favorable environment that encourages innovation and fosters the continued development of agriculture. Ukraine has the opportunity to further develop the potential of conventional crops, which is where we are currently concentrating our efforts. We also hope that at some point biotechnology is a tool that will be available to Ukrainian farmers in the future.
Another opportunity is addressing some of the societal barriers that block new innovations. Public uneasiness is sometimes part of any innovation, and especially so in farming and food production. While we’ve done a great job of talking with farmers, we haven’t always done a good job of connecting with consumers. We’re beginning to take some positive steps in sharing information about our products and business with broader society. We still have a long way to go, but it’s essential to begin the dialogue now.
Yes, we have a business in Ukraine, but we also invest in the communities where we operate, because we are part of the communities and our commitment is for the long term.
Related: Learn more about a new program we recently launched in Ukraine called “Grain Basket of the Future.” The program is sponsored by Monsanto and aims to help rural villagers improve their quality of life. The program offers rural Ukrainians the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to $25,000 to help them develop a program that provides educational opportunities, community empowerment, or small business development.