Ukraine is blessed with rich farming and forestry resources. According to the Statistical Year Book of Ukraine (1996), about 71 percent of the country's surface (41 million hectares) was used for agricultural activities.
In recent years, agricultural production has declined drastically because of a decrease in the number of tractors and combine harvesters in working order and to the lack of fertilizers and pesticides. According to official data, between 1991 and 1997, the number of tractors in use decreased from 497,300 to 361,000. (In order to operate efficiently, it is estimated that the country would need 515,000 tractors in use.) Similar shortfalls exist for harvesting combines. Between 1990 and 1997, the consumption of pesticides and fertilizers per hectare declined about 78 percent. From 1995 to 1999, crop production declined by an average of almost 10 percent per year, while livestock production declined by an average of 9 percent per year. These shortfalls in agricultural inputs reflect declining investment in agriculture, and feed directly into declining production.
Under communism, agricultural lands were held by the government and worked by the people, who owned no land. Privatization planned to shift most such land into the hands of individuals and farming collectives (jointly held farming cooperatives). By August 1995, the transfer of lands into private hands had begun. Over 8 million hectares of land had been privatized, with plots averaging 5 hectares. By 1996, most of the agricultural land in Ukraine was in collective and private hands, although 40 percent was still owned by the government. Household plots and private farms accounted for about 15 percent of the Ukrainian territory and they filled an important role in the delivery of products to the marketplace.
In general, the agricultural sector is experiencing serious internal difficulties, due to the transitional nature of the economy. A new policy and direction for Ukraine's agricultural sector is necessary. Agriculture poses the greatest challenge to the survival of Ukraine's political leaders, because almost half of the Ukraine's population live in rural areas.