The NASA program uses a special technique that detects changes in texture and color on satellite images to map where crops have been harvested or not.
According to NASA Harvest , nearly 6 million tons of wheat have been harvested in areas not under Ukrainian control. About 88 percent of the winter crops planted in occupied territories were harvested. Especially in the front line, grain remained in the fields.
The research raises the question of what happens to those crops. Russian ships may have exported the grain to countries such as Libya and Iran. However, it is difficult to estimate the quantities involved because the origin of the shipments is not clear. Russia has denied stealing grain.
Selling looted wheat could be a war crime
Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat. The blockade of its ports after the Russian invasion drove up prices. This may have made grain smuggling more profitable. Grain prices have fallen thanks to an agreement that allowed Ukraine to resume exports. Yet prices remain high.
Nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s wheat is grown on land that Russia claims to have taken. Part of that area is still controlled by Ukraine. NASA Harvest’s estimates only cover wheat and so far not other crops or foodstuffs. NASA can’t see what happened to the crops after they’re harvested.
The highest prosecutor in Switzerland, a major commodity trading center, previously warned that the sale of looted raw materials could be a war crime. Major Ukrainian grower HarvEast said earlier that all the winter crops he planted on his land in the Donetsk region were taken away by the occupying forces this summer.