Growing an agribusiness in Ukraine with locals in mind

By Roman Matyukhin

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Liubaretske is an agribusiness located in the small village of Liubartsi – an hour’s drive from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The company produces cereals – soy, corn and wheat – and is among 550 companies which have benefited from the financing of the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. With support from the EBRD and the EU, the company has created a safe and healthy working environment for its 160 employees, increasing access to modern machinery and relevant skills.

The company purchased a wheel tractor and a combine harvester thanks to a loan of €516,000 paid in local currency through Credit Agricole Ukraine. The internationally recognised John Deere harvester has been sent straight into the field to harvest corn. But Liubaretske has a mission beyond crops: it’s their people who matter the most.

A strong bond with locals as a cornerstone of success

“Ukraine is mostly associated with fertile land and a strong agricultural sector but the country’s greatly experienced human capital is often overlooked,” says Liubaretske’s CEO, Oleksandr Safonov.

According to Oleksandr, the company has relied heavily on employing and nurturing a wide array of experts and specialists from the local community since the start of operations in 2003: “We are a full cycle business, meaning we plant, grow and harvest cereals all by ourselves,” he says. “To sustain this approach, we continually invest in new machinery, including specialised vehicles and innovative cereal drying and storage technologies, but none of that would have been enough if it wasn’t for our people.”

Oleksandr believes that Ukrainians are among the most talented people in the world and his vision lies in creating opportunities for locals while advancing their broader skill sets. “We employ people with expertise ranging from warehouse and lab management to the operation of specialised vehicles; from agronomics and finance to business development and trade. All our employees are either from Liubartsi or the surrounding villages. They are the cornerstone of our success,” Oleksandr concludes.

When it comes to younger generations and future agricultural expertise, Oleksandr sees access to modern technology as the main challenge in the local education system. In order to tackle this problem, the company works closely with local educational institutes: “Whether it’s computers, interactive multimedia boards, desks or simple school renovation, we are always there doing our best to help build a comfortable and an efficient educational system in the village. Kids are the future of our country!”

Longstanding partnerships as a way forward

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created new difficulties and obstacles for businesses but thanks to Ukraine’s international partners and local collaborations, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) still have access to much-needed finance and new markets. Our partnership with Credit Agricole has lasted more than a decade. Under the financing programme, the bank continues to help us purchase and lease additional machinery in this record-breaking harvest year for Ukraine,” says Oleksandr.

This year the company also partnered up with Nibulon, the country’s leading grain and oil seed trader. Nibulon helps to export Liubaretske’s products to Eastern Asian countries.

A private sector boost to strengthen the country’s economy

SMEs are among the key drivers for economic growth, providing employment opportunities and opening new markets for local businesses.

Through partner banks in Ukraine and other EU Eastern Partnership countries, the EBRD and the EU help SMEs to unlock their full potential. EBRD financing complemented by EU grant incentives helps businesses boost export volumes, contributing to sustainable growth and a healthier economy overall.

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