Monday, July 02, 2001

Ukraine gets tip on grain

By Anya Rao
Enquirer Contributor

        Sixteen Ukrainian businesspeople took a three-week crash course in U.S. grain production last month to help their own agricultural productions operate and compete in their relatively new market economy. Ukrainians traveled to companies in five states, including Ohio, to study advances in agricultural productivity, marketing and management.

        The tour is modeled after similar programs started as part of the post-World War II Marshall Plan to increase productivity in Europe. The nonprofit Cincinnati-based Center for Economic Initiativesorganized the tour, which is the eighth of its kind.

        The Ukrainians are adjusting to a free market, which began 10 years ago when Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union. The tours offer training for members of various industries in the former Soviet Union to help ease that transition, said Leland Cole, CEI president.

        “They are getting a very broad view of the grain industry, from planting seeds to setting prices at the Chicago Board of Trade,” Mr. Cole said.

        “They are so thirsty for knowledge. They are voracious note takers, and we have to tear them away from every place. It's obvious they are here to learn.”

        Most of the participants are in management positions at large farms in Kharkiv, Cincinnati's sister city. Alexander Fedotov, the president of Horizon Limited farm near Kharkiv, was particularly interested in the advances related to corn.

        “I enjoyed seeing all the machine and equipment used for growing corn, including new ways to use herbicides and new planting machines,” he said through interpreter Sasha Etlin. “I saw some things that are perfect for us and that we really lack.”

        He said the tour changed their attitudes as to what direction they should be taking their businesses and how they should go about achieving their goals.

        The group traveled by bus to the plants and businesses with two interpreters and a tour leader. The study tour lasted from June 11 through Sunday.

        Twenty-five U.S. companies volunteered to be hosts for the Ukrainians.

        Richard Moreland, performance marketing leader at Cargill Farm Service Center, said the Ukrainians spent almost two hours touring the Kellogg Road facility on June 13. Mr. Moreland explained to the group how Cargill purchases grain from farmers and how the price of grain can change almost by the minute while the Chicago Board of Trade is open.

        "They were fascinated that we could be so efficient, that we work with so many tons of grain with so few people,” Mr. Moreland said.

        Participants are carefully selected by CEI to attend the 20-day tour. To take part, the Ukrainians must promise to pass along information to others through project reports, presentations and the media, Mr. Cole said.

        Since the first study tour in 1995, 66 products have been introduced into Ukraine. Every tour passes information along to an estimated 4,000 people. Some participating companies have increased their sales by 250 percent and have doubled their product lines, he said.

        The tour is funded by a million-dollar grant from the United States Agency for International Development. The grant will support five future tours with Ukrainians from industries such as machine building and livestock.


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