The farms that grow the millet they supply to us, are located in Southern Ukraine – mostly in the Odessa region. One is located in Zaporizhya region and another in the Mykolaiv region. The main volume of millet comes from around Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky in the southern part of the Odessa region.
There are a few varieties of millet grown in the Ukraine. The average growth cycle from sowing until harvesting is 70 to100 days. The millet will be planted in May and harvested in September, so, as in Australia, it is a summer crop.
Farmers prefer to cultivate the early maturing types of millet because September is a very rainy month and this weather is bad for the crop. When the crop gets too much rain so close to maturity the seed loses quality and is not so good for processing.
Some farmers try to harvest two fast-growing millet crops a year – which means they would harvest, and then plant a second crop. However, since it prefers warm, dry weather the quality of the second autumn crop is affected by the autumn rains. So usually, after the millet is harvested in July-August, the winter crops of wheat, barley and rapeseed (canola) are sown.
Millet is cultivated throughout the Ukraine, but our supplier’s 18 years of experience has shown them that the millet from Northern and Central Ukraine does not have the same qualities as the Southern crops. It enjoys sun and hot weather so they prefer to order the organic millet from farmers in the south.
Another reason for the high quality millet of Southern Ukraine is that there is a shortage of moisture in the region. This means pesticides are not effective and so the majority of the farmers are naturally organic. Thus it’s easier to become a certified organic farmer because the region does not have history of pesticide usage, therefore the soil is truly organic. In the Central Ukraine, however, where the climate is more moist, 99% of the farms are conventional.
Southern Ukraine enjoys very hot summers and several weeks can pass without any rainfall. There have been seasons when millet was the only crop that survived in the heat wave, as all other crops dried out. Farmers in the area cultivate millet every year because it could be considered a form of insurance for them.
Ukraine has only been a capitalist country for the last 28 years. Prior to that it was part of the Soviet Block. This means that farmers have only been cultivating millet for sale for a maximum of about 10 years. They are naturals at organics because they have an organic heritage from the Soviet Union. Many of the large-scale developments of the Green Revolution (chemicals and fertilisers etc) did not play a large part in Soviet agriculture. This means that the region has a long tradition of not using industrial inputs, so these lands provide a great basis for organic production.
Ukrainian farmers are not very rich, so will not have the funds for high-cost chemicals, fertilisers, farming equipment, etc. And in general the industrial pollution is low, making farming organically a very sensible proposition. Organic production also helps them to increase their working capital. The organic margin in the Ukraine (usually over 50% as compared to the price of conventional, due to the extra work involved in organics), as well as the fact that our Ukrainian suppliers prepay the farmers to start sowing their crop, provides great support for them. And helps to preserve the pristine nature of the area.