The Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting farm businesses across Europe, says Michał Stachlewski.
We have been supplying farm machinery since 1992. We are machinery dealers for the Case IH and Steyr tractor brands. Our business is based in eastern and south-east Poland, so the war isn’t very far away at all – our nearest branches are about 50 miles from the Ukraine border.
Like everyone, we are feeling the impact of the Russian invasion – the financial effects linked to energy prices, inflation and the rising cost of borrowing. But we can still help our neighbours, show them they are not alone and there is hope for a better tomorrow.
The situation has had a huge impact on attitudes to investment in farm machinery. Do farmers buy now? Or do they save money and prepare for the worst? We’re all aware that we could all go into a state of emergency overnight.
Our other brands include Joskin. As a dealer, we don’t sell machines direct to Ukraine. But Ukrainian customers do buy parts from us when their local supplier is out of stock. We cannot tell ourselves “this is not my business, it is not my problem”.
Customers are not only buying on price – they are also looking at the manufacturers’ policies and attitudes towards Ukraine. Do they support freedom – and not just in words – or are they only interested in making money?
We fly the Ukrainian flag at our branches, as a show of solidarity so people don’t feel alone. But we are also thinking long-term. Each of our employees has contributed to helping refugees and we are also ready to help.
The invasion has affected everything. We have 80 employees. Housing has been provided to Ukrainian families. We believe that once the war has ended, those families will return to their homeland and rebuild it.
We haven’t employed anyone because our business requires specific product knowledge – a good knowledge of the language and customers. It means we can’t hire everybody. But a large number of our customers are hiring people from Ukraine.
Our core business is machinery sales in Poland. We specialise in selling machines to farmers who – even if they use modern production methods – still make relatively traditional choices.
The way we see it, the war is a bigger threat than volatile prices and inflation. It is better to have higher prices and higher salaries than having a war that threatens to destroy everything completely.
Everything has changed in Poland since the Russian invasion – not only in the big cities but also in our smaller villages.
We hear Ukrainian in the media, we have Ukrainian customers and information is given in both languages. In the streets, we see lots of cars with Ukrainian number plates. Churches are making themselves available so people can pray according to their own denomination.
Poland is an EU country and a NATO member so we feel safe. But we are still trying to see an exit from this situation. You would have to be blind not to see the human tragedy that is taking place in Ukraine.
Michał Stachlewski is sales director for FHU Kisiel, a farm machinery dealer in Niedrzwica, Poland.