In the middle of winter you would never think that anything other than ice and snow cover the Ukrainian countryside, yet come summer the country becomes the “breadbasket of Europe”, as one of the world’s largest corn and wheat exporters.
To store the harvest, grain silos can be found all across the countryside.
Some railway sidings have smaller silo complexes.
Others are far larger.
And all across the railway network, rakes of bottom discharge grain hoppers can be found, even in the middle of winter.
As of 2014 Укрзалізниця (Ukrainian Railways) operated a fleet of 12,960 wagons for the carriage of grain – enough to carry 40 million tonnes of grain a year.
The local name for the wagon type is ‘хоппер, для зерна’ (hopper, for grain) and they all bear the ’22 / UA’ UIC country code to enable interchange traffic into Europe if required, and are numbered in the ’95xx xxxx’ group.
In 2013 Ukraine achieved a record sized harvest of 62 million tonnes, which included 21.5 million tonnes of wheat and 31 million tonnes of maize.
In the January to April 2014 period, 7.7 million tonnes of grain was sent to port by rail for export and 700,700 tonnes transported to supply the domestic market – an increase of 20% over the previous year.
The Soviet famine of 1932–33 disrupted the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, and resulted in the deaths of millions in those areas.