nearly 10 million A metric ton of Ukrainian grain was affected by the Russian invasion, according to a new analysis of satellite imagery. One-sixth of Ukraine’s grain storage facilities, with a total capacity of 58 million tonnes, have been affected by the conflict, including damage, destruction or falling under Russian control.
The Observatory on Conflict, the organisation that carried out the analysis, found extensive evidence of indiscriminate or targeted bombing causing damage to granaries. As the conflict continues, concerns have been raised about the crops that need to be grown now. “If Ukraine doesn’t have enough storage capacity, farmers may not grow winter wheat,” said Nathaniel Raymond, co-director of the Humanitarian Research Laboratory and a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health who led the project. “If they can’t store the upcoming harvest, it will be a supply crisis.”
To truly understand the damage done to Ukrainian grain storage facilities, the Conflict Observatory, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, built an object detection algorithm capable of analyzing commercial satellite imagery to spot unknown objects previously damaged during the conflict. silo. The team used historical satellite imagery as well as images of storage facilities known to suffer damage to train the algorithm to find other facilities that were also affected. The study focused on specific areas within known missile strike ranges. From there, the researchers were able to estimate roughly how much of the grain was destroyed.
While the researchers weren’t able to analyze every facility — there are about 1,300 grain bins in the country, of which the report examined 344 — this is the largest assessment to date.
“Due to the apparent and current danger to the global food supply, efforts have been made to estimate the damage to Ukraine’s grain storage capacity,” said Raymond. “The amount of grain that can be stored in the facilities we studied accounts for almost all of Ukraine’s grain supply. a quarter.”
In the months following the invasion, Russia blocked Ukrainian grain exports, threatening to create a global food crisis. “For people around the world, wars and other crises are threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and poverty, followed by social and economic disruption,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in June. 7 At the end of the month, Russia agreed to allow some of the 20 million tonnes of grain and other food products stranded in the country to be shipped from certain Ukrainian ports. While global food prices have begun to fall in response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has since threatened to end the deal.
Ukraine desperately needs stable food storage infrastructure. Grains and other crops often need to be stored under very specific conditions to avoid spoilage. Any changes in factors such as temperature or humidity can drastically shorten the amount of time a crop remains in good condition. According to the report, even minor damage can spoil crops even if the storage structure appears largely intact.