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4G mobile in March? Poor rains cut 2017 grain harvest by 7%; Container trains to take trucks off roads; Work to start on $500 million Lviv ski resort

01 Feb 2018 3:49 PM | Anonymous

4G mobile service could start in Ukraine as early as March, telecom providers said after winning licenses at auction Wednesday. Kyivstar, Vodafone and Lifecell together will pay $85 million to provide the services. At first, according to, service will be launched in Ukraine’s five largest cities -- Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa and Dnipro. By 2022, 4G service is to be available in all Ukrainian cities with populations over 10,000.

On 4G, Olha Ustinova, general director of Vodafone Ukraine, told Ukrinform: "We are ready. We are testing it so far. And we’ll start in March-April." Kyivstar, the nation’s largest mobile provider, prepared for the auction by erecting more than 500 4G towers in Ukraine’s largest cities, sea resorts, and border crossing points, the company said. This year, it plans to double that number, erecting another 600 towers. Additionally, the operator has 7,300 3G towers

In February-March, a second tender is to be held to sell 4G licenses for 150 MHz frequency band. The starting price is to be $137 million. Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “The purchase of the licenses will stimulate mobile operators' investments into new technologies and may have an overall positive effect on Ukraine’s economy in the mid-term. This also may improve the country’s investment attractiveness.”

Ukraine’s grain harvest fell 7% last year, to 61.3 million tons, according to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine. Last year, Ukraine threshed 26 million tons of wheat, down from 26 million tons in 2016. The corn crop fell to 24.1 million tons, down from 28 million tons. Barley fell to 8.3 million tons, down from 9.4 million tons. Poor rains and lack of irrigation reduced crops from the levels of 2016, a bumper crop year.

Indonesia has unexpectedly traded places with India as the world’s largest buyer of Ukrainian grain, UkrAgroConsult reports. Indonesia is taking 16% percent of Ukraine grain sales, while India’s take has plummeted to 4%. India’s wheat harvest has recovered making the country more self reliant. Ukraine competes with Russia, which is pumping cheap grain from a bumper crop into international markets, Bloomberg reports. Russia has dominated this season’s tenders in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer.

Ukraine’s trade deficit in good and services increased by one quarter last year, to $6.8 billion. The trade deficit in goods jumped 32%, to $9.2 billion, according to the State Statistics Service. This was offset by a surplus in trade in services – largely IT – which increased 60%, to $2.3 billion.

Imports from Russia jumped last year 40%, to $7.2 billion, largely due to imports of coal, oil products and fertilizers. Exports increased by only 10%, to $3.4 billion.

The U.S. displaced Russia last year as the leading source of official private remittances to Ukraine, the National Bank of Ukraine reports. The rise in payments from the US was largely due to the increase in the export of IT services. Overall, remittances to Ukraine – largely from US, Eastern Europe and Russia – increased last year by 30%, to $5.2 billion.

Ukrainian workers in Poland may have sent home $5 billion last year, equivalent to 5% of Ukraine’s GDP, Deutsche Welle reports from Warsaw. Work permits more than doubled last year, to 250,000. Another 1 million Ukrainians work temporary jobs on the 90-day visa free regime. Almost half of employers sought Ukrainians because no local hires were available and 40% of firms in sales and services rely on Ukrainians, according to a survey of 300 companies in January by Work Service, a Warsaw recruitment company. Analysts cite labor shortages as the major threat to Poland’s continued high economic growth.

One week after the central bank raised interest rates, Prime Minister Groysman called on the bank to cut interest rates. Groysman said Wednesday at a televised cabinet meeting that Ukraine should target annual economic growth of 5-7 percent. Groysman said: “At the moment we’re thinking that the interest rate on loans needs to be lowered, as loans need to be available for the national economy.” Last Thursday, the National Bank of Ukraine raised the main interest rate 1.5 percentage points, to 16%, to contain inflation, was 13.7% last year.

Ukraine’s digital economy can create 300,000 to 400,000 new jobs and over 50 new professions, according to the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. At present, only 17% of Ukrainian industries use digital innovations, far below the EU indicator of 49%. Through public-private partnerships, Ukraine can reach 80% broadband coverage in five years.

Ukraine’s government has fired tax and customs service chief Roman Nasirov 11 months after he was suspended from his post after his arrest on suspicion of embezzlement. Nasirov is being investigated on suspicion of defrauding the state of the hryvnia equivalent of $70 million. After his arrest, Nasirov was released on bail, but ordered to wear an electronic bracelet and barred from leaving Kyiv. He is one of a handful of high officials to face prosecution after Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution of Dignity.

Denmark’s Maersk and Ukrainian Railways started Wednesday what is to be a twice a week container train running 500 km between the TIS terminal at Yuzhny port and the Kyiv Liski container park on the Dnipro left bank. In practical terms, this will take 12,000 tractor trailer trucks off the Kyiv-Odesa highway each year, Egor Grebennikov, co-founder of TIS, tells Interfax. The train will take 19 hours, three times as long as a truck. But shippers can load 28 tons in each container, 17% more than the 24-ton truck limit.

Container traffic by rail is set to grow in Ukraine, Ukrzaliznytsia CEO Yevhen Kravtsev tells Interfax. Ukrainian Railways plans to build container terminals in Vinnytsia and on Ukraine’s EU borders. Last year, rail container traffic grew by 10% to 291,900 containers. Next summer, the TIS stevedoring and logistics company plans to start a container rail line from Yuzhny to Dnipro, a 600 km distance.

Work is to start next year on a 5-year, $500 million ski resort in the 1,000-meter high Carpathian mountains surrounding the village of Verkhnia Rozhanka, 145 km south of Lviv. The resort “should become the best one in Ukraine,” asserts Volodymyr Beha, head of the Slavske united territorial community, which includes the village. The project is being financed by Galnaftogaz Concern, owner of Ukraine’s 400 Okko gas stations. Vitaliy Antonov, chairman of Galnaftogaz, is a rock climber, mountaineer, and native of Lviv Region.