The milling industry in Eastern Europe navigated the COVID-19 pandemic differently to the UK or USA. Flour and grain exports from Eastern Europe’s milling industry were restricted in an attempt to protect domestic grain supply during the pandemic. These protectionist policies on grain by Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan allowed the prices of bread and grain to remain affordable and widely available. This may be perceived as an act of self-preservation by Eastern Europe, as countries who rely on their exports of grain became faced with danger. Russia exports wheat primarily to Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh, whilst Kazakhstan is one of the major suppliers to the global market. The director of Kazakhstan flour milling company Mutlu, Mukasan Taubekbayev, highlighted that the government’s decision to restrict grain export ‘would doom the neighbouring countries to starvation’ with countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan purchasing 50% and 60% of their domestic demand of grain from Kazakhstan respectively. Although Kazakhstan chose to lift their ban in favour of instituting a quota in April, the policy of protecting their domestic supply may have been damaging to other countries who relied on their export of grain in the long term.
On the other hand, Ukraine debated the use of grain restrictions as some farmers were looking at more attractive prices in the export market rather than the domestic market thus driving up the price of grain and in turn the price of bread. This saw both support and opposition. These restrictions would keep the price of wheat and bread down helping feed the estimated 10 million Ukrainians living in. However, it was also opposed by the president of the Ukraine grain association, Nikolay Gorbachev, as the proposed measure ‘would drive the industry into catastrophe’ due to grain exports generating $9.6 billion in 2019, which amounted to 40% of the country’s total export revenue. Ukraine therefore decided that they would ban exports of wheat if the sales exceeded the limits that they agreed with traders, thus being able to maintain a good amount of revenue whilst also keeping bread prices down domestically in uncertain times.
GlobalNewshut, Meals exports tighten as world retrenches beneath coronavirus pandemic, 8th April 2020, https://globalnewshut.com/food-exports-tighten-as-world-retrenches-under-coronavirus-pandemic/
World-Grain.com, Are Black Sea grain exporters turning to ‘food nationalism’?, 27th April 2020, https://www.world-grain.com/articles/13606-are-black-sea-grain-exporters-turning-to-food-nationalism
Food and Drink International, Ukraine mulls ban on wheat exports, minister claims, 17th April 2020, https://www.fdiforum.net/mag/supply-chain/ukraine-mulls-ban-wheat-exports/
World-Grain.com, Black Sea countries tighten grain supply grip, 22nd May 2020 https://www.world-grain.com/articles/13735-black-sea-countries-tighten-grain-supply-grip