Welsh farmers feel the long-term impact of Ukraine war as pressure intensifies and costs surge

Farming costs have surged since the war in Ukraine. Credit: PA Images

As the first anniversary of the Ukrainian war is marked this week, not a comparison can be made with the suffering of the Ukrainians themselves. Many have lost loved ones and lost the homeland they knew since the conflict began.

But the invasion has had deep-rooted consequences across the world. Ukraine was one of the biggest global agricultural producers. More than 55% of its land area was arable, with farmers growing crops to support food production for many other countries.

When those exports were not forthcoming because of the war, there was an immediate pressure on food and farmers elsewhere, including in Wales.

The cost of animal feed doubled. The cost of fertiliser to make the early spring grass grow for newborn lambs and their mums trebled. And the cost of fuel for machinery like farm tractors went through the roof.

The Farmers' Union of Wales described it as a "serious situation" which is "really hitting everybody". Credit: PA Images

Wayne Langford is the Gwent county chairman of the Farmers' Union of Wales. On a dank winter's day on a livestock farm near Hafodyrynys, he spells out his concerns.

He said he fears things will get worse this year, not better: "We are in a serious situation. Owing to the war in Ukraine, we are in for a real tough ride over the next twelve months. It's really hitting everybody.

"I can see a real shortage of food over the next year too. The dairy industry in particular is struggling, because they need to use so much electricity and power to produce our milk. The energy cost increases have been colossal. They've gone up five times for some farmers compared to what they were before the crisis began."

It is because of these price rises that rural mental health charity The DPJ Foundation has seen a rise in the number of calls it takes from farmers over the past year. The charity's 'Share the Load' service turns five years old this week.

Manager Kate Miles explained: "Farmers sometimes carry problems like bags full of shopping. And it only needs a couple of extra items to tip that bag of shopping over. It's been that way with the cost of living crisis.

"We've had so many phone calls from farmers who were trying to deal with industry pressures anyway, and then the cost increases following the Ukrainian war, really tipped those issues over the edge.

"We operate a 24/7 service, run by volunteers, to help anybody who needs a chat or advice that we can provide. Nobody needs to suffer in silence. Please turn to us if you need somebody to listen."

Last week The Farm Safety Foundation revealed that 94% of farmers under 40 in the UK, believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing them today. Many will worry that the predictions on the continuing 'cost of living' crisis will deepen that further.