Entrepreneur Andriy Soroka is relaunching his father’s farming business. A business loan under the EU4Business programme helped him take an important step on this path.
A pizza with snails, fried potatoes with snails. Farmer Andriy Soroka shows dishes prepared with his produce on the screen of his phone. An Argentine restaurant in Kyiv took five kilograms of chilled molluscs and made two dishes.
Andriy Soroka breeds Müller snails in a village in the Zhytomyr region and has a population of about half a million of the molluscs. However, this is only a small portion of his farming business, which provides permanent employment to 25 people. At its core, there is wheat, corn and sunflower growing.
Soroka took up farming relatively recently. In 2014, he inherited his father's farm with a good land reserve of 850 hectares. That was the start of his entrepreneurial activity. "I felt a moral responsibility to my father who had invested more than twenty years of his life in this business," Soroka answers when asked why he did not sell the business, "and, of course, responsibility to the people who work here."
First of all, the entrepreneur decided to improve the efficiency of his father's farm. One of the sources of the investment capital was the European Union. Last year, the entrepreneur took out a loan of 4 million hryvnyas from the Polish Kredo Bank to buy a John Deere tractor. The money was allocated in the framework of the SME Investment Support Program implemented by the German-Ukrainian Fund with financial support in the framework of the EU4Business initiative.
Soroka is a trained agronomist. He had a career in companies involved in agriculture. His last employer was a major global player in the malt market. Therefore, he did not need to look for knowledge to reform his farm.
The entrepreneur started by giving up niche crops, winter rye and oats, which had been grown on the farm for many years. He decided to switch to more mainstream products. He sowed rape, sunflower and increased the area allocated for corn. Ukraine exports these crops, therefore there is always demand, and prices are close to those on the world market. The snails are also part of the business transformation: the farmer is looking to sell them in the European Union.
In parallel, Soroka is increasing yield in his farm with the smart application of new fertilisers. "We analysed the soil composition and figured out how to compensate for the lack of micro- and macroelements more effectively," says the farmer, adding that he is constantly searching for new forms of fertilisers to select those that the plants best absorb.
Soroka is winning his battle for the harvest. He has managed to increase grain per hectare yields more than 50 per cent. His current result is 5 tonnes per hectare, which is considerably higher than the Ukraine average wheat yield of 3.8 tonnes per hectare. Corn is doing pretty well too. Soroka yields 8 tonnes per hectare against the average in Ukraine of 4.27 tonnes per hectare.
And this is despite the fact that he is not working the famous Ukrainian chernozem, but the much leaner soil of the Polissia region.
Soroka is very happy with his new John Deere tractor and is ready to talk about it at length. It really is a powerful and reliable machine. "I needed it badly to work my land," says the farmer.
The purchase was financed by a loan from KredoBank under the GUF SME Investment Support Program supported by the EU. Soroka is very pleased with the result, as the new equipment helps him to reduce the cost of his produce, and increase the net profit. "With lower fuel consumption, I am achieving better quality of all operations and lower maintenance costs," the farmer explains.
The purchase of the John Deere tractor is also part of the business reshuffle. Since 2014, the entrepreneur has been replacing old seeders, combines and tractors with new machinery. The old Soviet equipment was uneconomical and often broke.
At the end of our conversation about the farming business, we ask Soroka how he sees his company in five years. He answers quickly, having obviously given it a lot of thought. "I will have even better yields – 10 tonnes of wheat and 15 tonnes of corn," he says. But that is not all. "Each employee will receive a salary equivalent to $1,000," continues Soroka. "And my farming business will become a good place for people to work and for me, as an owner, a profitable operation."
The EU4Business initiative unites all EU programmes helping the development of SMEs and the private sector in Ukraine. Between 2009 and 2017, the EU allocated €156 million for the implementation of programmes in the country. Support has been given to 1,700 Ukrainian enterprises, resulting in the creation of almost 6,000 jobs.
Author: Katerina Shapoval
The article was prepared for the EU4Business initiative.