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7 May, 2020  ▪  Yuriy Lapayev

Per Brodersen: "You need to promote the positive image of the country among the European consumers"

During the XIII Europe – Ukraine Forum, The Ukrainian Week met with Director of the German Agribusiness Alliance at the German Eastern Business Association to discuss current and future cooperation between Europe and Ukraine in the agricultural sector, possibilities for Ukrainian producers and opening of the land market in our country

Is Ukrainian agriculture business a challenge or a partner for Europe?

  • Ukraine is, most certainly, a partner for Europe. We have some quotas regarding the DCFTA, this new trade agreement between Brussels and Kyiv, which, from the European producer's side, can be seen, of course, as a kind of protective measure from the EU side towards Ukrainian agriculture. But nonetheless, whenever we look at the potential of the Ukrainian agricultural sector, we always see Ukraine as a partner -  especially, when you look at the needs of Ukraine’s agricultural sector for modern technologies, for example, plant protection, genetics or agricultural machinery. 

Which sectors of the Ukrainian agriculture business could be the most successful in Europe?

  • When we look at what Ukraine is producing at the moment and what is most needed in the European Union, we see a growing demand for organic production. Producers in Ukraine are aware of the production possibilities, they are already exporting from Ukraine to the EU. However, there is still a gap between consumption and delivery in the EU, so there is still more to deliver. So this segment of the market is really attractive., leaving aside the many other productive branches of Ukraine’s agriculture.

How to increase the interest of common European consumers in Ukrainian products? 

  • I think Ukraine is struggling with a negative image, influenced by Chernobyl, the conflict in the Donbas, the annexation of Crimea and corruption in too many places. You need a positive image of the country towards European consumers. That's why the brand "Made in Ukraine" is so important. With a positive image of, say, organic production, you can change the perception of the whole country in a very sensitive way. If I am not mistaken, such a brand has been already invented, but I haven't seen it yet in Germany - but I would like to see it as soon as possible. 

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So we need to put more effort into branding, presentation or exhibitions?

  • You have come already a long way. But for example, there hasn't been a Ukrainian pavilion at the International Green Week in Berlin this year. There was one last year, but not this time. And the Green Week is a place, where you can reach out to a lot of end consumers in this segment and, in some way, secure support for Ukrainian agriculture. 

What could you advise to small or medium farmers in Ukraine?

  • They need to unite in order to cope with existing barriers of the European Union, especially with regard to organic produce. They need to fulfill many administrative hurdles, so they need to be focused, be really precise and reliable for EU buyers. Organic produce takes a lot of effort, but at the same time promises much more revenue compared to conventional produce. You can simply earn more with organic products, especially as a small farmer. In Ukraine, you have a big advantage compared to EU countries, because a significant amount of your territory hasn't seen any herbicides or artificial fertilizers for decades. So you have a good basis for producing organic food. 

Is it true, that the development of partnership in agriculture could solve even some political problems between Europe and Ukraine? 

  • I think strengthening the space of agricultural production, the countryside, is important to all of us because it makes people stay in their places, when you earn enough money for your living. This is in the interest not only of the EU but also of Ukraine and all neighbour states. When people have a chance to make a living of their work they do every day, this can decrease migration from Ukraine to the EU. It is also important to make agriculture attractive to young people. You can work as a manager, you can use digital technologies and still work in the field of agriculture – agriculture depends on bright people! Intelligent people are needed there for the sake of productivity of Ukraine's agricultural sector. It could be really worthwhile to show young people that agriculture does not necessarily mean living somewhere in the countryside way beyond any internet connection etc. Agriculture is a modern, very important branch of the economy, that needs skilled, bright people. 

Is it possible for the EU and Ukraine to win some new markets in third countries together as partners?

  • There are good chances to join forces when it comes to adopting common standards because it makes you much more reliable on international markets. Ukraine should consider harmonizing and adapting rules of the European Union in this field as they are already in force and broadly accepted. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. The nearer Ukraine is to these rules, the easier will be to sell products, resulting in a Ukraine that is even more competitive to international markets and much more attractive to future consumers. My recommendation: Make use of an existing positive image of European products as a  your own. Ukraine is Europe.

If you look at the historical ties that Ukraine has with their neighbors, we see Poland as a natual partner. Germany is very much engaged in Ukraine, too, a lot of Germans are working here for the sake of the development of the agricultural sector, they do this really successfully. Germany would be happy to work more with your country. 

The German Agribusiness Alliance, as an organization of 30 companies and trade unions from the agricultural sector, offers the whole range of modern agritechnologies: Our members cover the whole range of agricultural production - together they provide agrimachinery, genetics, seeds, etc. Most of our members are already active in Ukraine, my personal aim is to support them in working in your country. How to do that? We organize support from our partners whenever some kind of problem arises, we do lobbying for our members in and beyond Ukraine. Whatever, we always offer partnership in the modernization of Ukraine’s agricultural sector, we support local producers – and I am certain there is a lot of reason for win-win situations on both sides.

Recently our parliament has opened up the land market in Ukraine. How will this affect current cooperation with Europe?

  • An open land market is common standard in the EU. But, of course, knowing the historical background, there is a reason why an open land market is so heavily debated in Ukraine. Creating the open land market is a kind of zero-hour constellation, the start of something completely new. Ukrainian soil is really attractive, also for foreign investor and it makes the whole country even more attractive to foreign investment than it is already now. We always said that Ukraine needs a really matured approach to the land market. The land market is no topic for political activism just to show results, to rush through, to seem quick - instead, a solid basement is needed. Establishing an open land market is not just a decision by parliament to have things done, but thorough preparation of such a step. 

Do you see any threat from this opening?

  • Before this decision, we had a state of limbo, because companies in Ukraine would not be spending their money on modern technologies because they held their money back in order to be able to buy land whenever this became real. That was completely understandable, but that's why we needed that decision. Regarding the future – if we will have development towards oligarchic structures, then I wouldn't call that a free economy. We endorse a liberal approach in Ukraine, and it needs to be open to everyone. 

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Biography

Per Brodersen. Has a master’s degree in History from Humboldt University of Berlin (2000), Ph.D. degree in East European history from Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (2006). From 2007 to 2013 worked in different positions in Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. From 2013 to 2015 he was an advisor to the president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), Marcel Fratzscher. Since October 2015 - Director of German Agribusiness Alliance at the German Eastern Business Association (Ost-Ausschuss) in Berlin.

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