No matter how stereotypical the statement that Ukrainians live off their land, Ukraine’s agriculture really is the country’s most profitable sector today — and the numbers prove it. Over the past year, the net profit of farming, forestry and fishery enterprises was more than UAH 80 billion. Representing nearly 11% of GDP, it is the leader among economic activities.
Still, there are pitfalls. With the land, Ukraine has been really lucky. But experts say that highly fertile black soil alone is not enough to compete on the world market. For example, Ukrainian farmworkers, on average, harvest half as much wheat per hectare as their counterparts in France and Germany. So, the biggest challenge now in agribusiness is to increase productivity and master new technologies.
“We don’t make value-added products,” says Viktor Polishchuk. “We grow the wheat, we ship it to Italy, the Italians make the pasta, and that Italian pasta made of Ukrainian wheat is imported here. It shouldn't be like that.”
This young entrepreneur is the head of a company that supplies imported fertilizers to Ukrainian farmers. And talking about farming comes naturally to him — and when he talks, people listen.
Viktor Polishchuk founded his company Makosh in 2013. Before that, he had worked as a manager in selling fertilizers, plant protection products and seeds, experience that gave him a good head start. Today, Makosh is among the 10 biggest importers of special fertilizers in Ukraine and Polishchuk has joined the ranks of Ukraine’s “Business 100.” This platform was set up by the most influential business owners from different sectors of Ukraine’s economy, with the purpose of exchanging experience, coordinating social projects and promoting Ukrainian brands around the world.
EU fertilizers according to the Makosh recipe
Makosh offers Ukrainian farmers a variety of mineral fertilizers: nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, and complex. The company collaborates with German, French and Israeli manufacturers. But its main partners are in Poland, because it’s a great value for the money. Polish companies produce custom multi-component fertilizers that are adapted to Ukraine’s weather conditions and the nature of Ukrainian soil, especially for Makosh. Polishchuk's company has also embraced a customer-centric approach.
“We try to meet all the farmers’ needs, so we provide high-performance products in the necessary volumes, along with technical support,” says Polishchuk. “We can even deliver goods on credit. We also look for opportunities to buy products at the lowest possible cost so that we can offer our farmers the best prices.”
A new, energy-efficient office
Makosh is gradually building its own material base. The company has its own warehouse complex, which ensures the quality of fertilizer storage. This year they finally moved from their tiny original office to a new stand-alone 5-story building in Vinnytsia. Through the EU4Business Initiative of the European Union, the EBRD helped the company hire an outside consultant on energy efficiency during construction. The specialist conducted a comprehensive analysis of the construction documentation and audited the partly built premises, determined how to reduce energy consumption and save on utilities, and supervised the energy efficiency aspect of construction. With funding from the EU, the Bank reimbursed 75% of the cost of the energy efficiency project. Without it, says Polishchuk, they could not have moved and expanded.
“Our new building is over 2,500 square meters,” says Polishchuk. “It would not have been economically profitable or environmentally friendly to heat it the old way. This consultant advised us on how to make the building completely airtight, so that it stays warm in winter and cool in summer. He also helped us buy insulation materials at a bargain price.”
The company will be able calculate exactly how much they saved on utilities in the spring. But they can already see the results now, because they only needed to turn on the heating was in early December.
A full range of services to support farming
Makosh is progressive not only when it comes to saving energy. The company is active in social networks, constantly communicates with farmers and offers advice. They even created a special service called Agronomist 24/7 to provide advice on plant nutrition. Makosh also does soil audits, taking samples, mapping fields into zones, and conducting diagnostics.
For the future farmers, they have begun publishing a farming journal called Makoshenyatko, meaning Makosh Kid. Polishchuk is convinced that even in kindergarten and elementary school, Ukraine should be teaching children to love working the land and to learn where food comes from. In a breadbasket like Ukraine, agriculture should be popularized among Ukrainians themselves, so that tomorrow there will be good dedicated specialists to work in the industry.