Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Quits For Health Reasons, Senior Lawmaker Replaces Him

Lviv, UK (Reuters) — Ukraine's agriculture minister resigned Thursday (March 24) citing health reasons, a month after Russia launched a war that has forced one of the world's largest grain producers to halt the export of some farm products.

In an online post, Roman Leshchenko said a serious health condition required him to step down.

He said he was standing down "with a heavy heart, but with sincere faith in the restored Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine."

Ukraine's parliament announced that lawmakers had voted to approve the appointment of senior lawmaker Mykola Solskyi as his replacement.

Solskyi is widely seen as an important figure behind reforms that opened the land market in Ukraine last year, lifting a longstanding ban on the sale of farmland.

The reform was intended by President Volodymr Zelenskiy to unlock opportunities for investment in the agriculture sector although Russia's invasion may sharply reduce the 2022 harvest and exports in the 2022/23 season.

Solskyi said today (March 25) that Ukraine's grain stocks for export amount to $7.5 billion but did not say what the volume of grains for export was.

He added that global food prices would continue to rise if the situation in Ukraine following Russia's invasion did not change.

Leshchenko told Reuters in an interview this week that Ukraine's spring crop sowing area may more than halve this year from 2021 levels to some 7 million hectares, versus 15 million hectares expected before the Russian invasion.

Leshchenko said farmers sowed a total of 6.5 million hectares of winter wheat for the 2022 harvest, but the harvested area could be only around 4 million hectares due to war in many Ukrainian regions.

He declined to forecast the 2022 grain harvest, because "the situation has not fully stabilized", he said.

"The territory of hostilities is constantly moving, and we hope that there will be some changes in the situation in terms of achieving peace, and we will be able to plant at least late crops in those areas that are now in the war zone," he said.

Ukraine has already suspended exports of rye, oats, millet, buckwheat, salt, sugar, meat and livestock since the invasion, and introduced licenses for wheat, corn, and sunflower oil exports.

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