Kiev - Ukraine’s grain industry is thriving, but its expansion is being hobbled by an aging railway. The entire rail network is operated by state-run Ukrzaliznytsya, hauling about two-thirds of all grains that go from farmers’ fields to the the country’s ports in the Black Sea area. With most freight locomotives and rail cars dating from the 1980s, the company has struggled in recent years to haul bumper harvests, at times leaving wagon shortages.
Improvements are on the way, but the rail monopoly plans to first focus on replacing carriages carrying commodities like iron ore or coal before upgrading grain hoppers next year.
With grain production in the world’s fourth-biggest shipper expected to keep growing, there are still concerns that there won’t be enough carts to transport the extra crops to ports: “It’s the most significant problem at the moment, as we are unable to export as much as we want,” said Mykola Horbachov, president of Ukraine’s Grain Association: “Grain traders might have increased their sales, entered new markets, but they have to compete for wagons instead.”