Durum Wheat Grows New Hope among Crimean Farmers

Durum Wheat Grows New Hope among Crimean Farmers
Crimean farmers turn to producing durum wheat, better adapted to the region’s climate and more in demand domestically.
"After a bare fallow, we harvested up to 4.5 tons per hectare,” said Mr. Gerusov. “We started with 20 hectares of durum wheat [in 2010]. Last year we planted 50 hectares, and this year we increased to 80 hectares.”

The USAID Local Investment and National Competitiveness project, which since 2008 has been working with both the public and private sector in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to improve its business and investment environment , has succeeded in raising grain producer incomes by rediscovering a crop nearly forgotten here - durum wheat.

Durum wheat is Crimea’s competitive advantage in agriculture. Not only is Crimea the only suitable climate for it in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s domestic market is not yet saturated with the product, and it can easily replace more expensive imported wheat products. The cultivation technology for durum and regular wheat is quite similar, with one important difference: durum wheat requires no irrigation. With proper technologies and techniques, durum wheat yields 3.0-3.5 tons of high-quality grain per hectare, which equals $150-200 of per hectare profit compared to $100 from the regular wheat.

Crimean farmers sowed their first experimental durum wheat plots in 2010 with USAID LINC’s support. The results pointed to the best options for growing durum wheat in specific Crimean climatic zones, and persuaded those still hesitant to give this crop a try.

Oleksandr Gerusov, a Crimean farmer from Nyzhniohirske, started growing durum wheat for purely economic reasons. In 2006-2007, prices for regular wheat dropped, but not for durum wheat, which sold for 50 percent more. "After a bare fallow, we harvested up to 4.5 tons per hectare,” said Mr. Gerusov. “We started with 20 hectares of durum wheat [in 2010]. Last year we planted 50 hectares, and this year we increased to 80 hectares.”

In 2011, almost 400 hectares in several Crimean districts were allocated to durum wheat, but future prospects point to far higher numbers.

USAID LINC believes the next step is to help Crimean farmers move up the value chain and get additional profits by processing the grain and offering their own flour, groats, or pasta to consumers. Project experts suggest that local farmers develop cooperatives to combine individual efforts in processing and marketing their produce.

“Thus far we have been selling our crops in the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions. They grind our grain and produce flour and pasta,” explains Mr. Gerusov. “But we want to close the loop: instead of selling raw materials we need to combine our resources to put up a mill and produce our own groats and pasta, and earn extra money.”

The agricultural service cooperative ‘Agro-Soyuz Tavrida’ started the process of registering its trademark, ‘Zoloto Kryma’ (Crimea’s Gold) with USAID encouragement. The Crimean cooperative plans to mill durum wheat flour and sell it to Ukrainian bakeries, with pasta production coming later. The trademark itself, developed with USAID LINC and USAID AgroInvest project assistance, will help market Crimea’s produce more effectively.

Last updated: November 22, 2013

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