(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian farm company HarvEast said Russia stole as much as 200,000 tons of crops from its farms in eastern occupied areas, as Kyiv urges buyers to seize suspicious grain shipments.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied regions and exporting it, and says Moscow has shipped out half a million tons of seized food. Russia has persistently denied the claims.
HarvEast, which was a top 10 Ukraine landowner before the war, said 50,000 tons of crops has been taken from storage by Russian lorries which then traveled in the direction of Russia, including from the villages of Manhush and Nikolske near Mariupol. It estimates that about another 150,000 tons have been harvested from its occupied fields it no longer controls, though can’t verify exact figures.
That combined volume would fill about three Panamax bulk vessels.
“The biggest loss is this year’s harvest,” HarvEast Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Skornyakov said in an interview. “In June they started to harvest our grain, and we don’t have access to this land.”
Abnormally high amounts of food shipments from the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea indicate that seized Ukrainian grain is being exported from there, according to analysts and the Kyiv School of Economics. HarvEast’s land is close enough to Russia that its grain is more likely to be sent there by truck, Skornyakov said.
Some of HarvEast’s fields near Ksenivka in the occupied region of Donetsk can be seen to have been harvested in June, according to satellite data firm Terrascope. Its Normalized Difference Vegetation Index uses satellite imagery to calculate the amount of green space within an area.
Russia’s invasion in February blockaded the country’s ports, limiting exports and causing global food prices to spike. Shipments have resumed through an recently agreed export corridor, but volumes are just a fraction of normal levels.
On Thursday, Ukraine’s special representative for the Middle East and Africa appealed to Arab League countries to seize suspicious shipments of its grain. He said “Russia’s impunity will encourage them to continue stealing grain from the occupied south of Ukraine.”
HarvEast -- part of Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM holding company -- has lost about two-thirds of its land to the Russian occupation, Skornyakov said.
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