"I am enormously proud of my fantastic team"
In the midst of a havoc and war, Bayer employees from the Ukraine are showing an exceptional resilience and commitment and provide first-hand insight into how they experienced the past few weeks, while keeping activities to safeguard health and food supplies to the population in their country.
For Liudmyla Yefremova as well as for millions of Ukrainians everything changed on February 24, 2022. “Like many other colleagues, I had to leave my home, first to the West of Ukraine, then across the border to Prague and now I am in Berlin,” she says. Liudmyla is leading the Supply Chain and Order-to-Cash Team for the Bayer Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Health division in Ukraine. Her team is scattered over Ukraine and neighboring countries, some are still in Kyiv and other regions close to war zone. Some of her colleagues had to take up arms and defend the country. Others are working under extremely difficult conditions out of shelters. “But we still try to do our best at all times, working hard and taking fast decisions to ensure that Ukrainian people get necessary medicines, are able to care for their families and loved ones and can help our army and people in need,” Liudmyla stresses. “I am enormously proud of my fantastic team.”
Overall, more than 4.6 million Ukrainian refugees have already fled the country in the past weeks according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), including Bayer employees like Liudmyla who decided to move to neighboring countries and keep working from there. Others remain working voluntarily on the ground to keep essential activities in areas such as health and nutrition running for their country.
When the Russian invasion started, the pharmaceutical market turned into chaos, Liudmyla recalls. Most pharmacies closed and those that remained open were nearly empty. In a matter of days, the team organized an important donation of most critical medicines to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to supply up to 27,000 Ukrainian patients. “Inquiries for medicines from patients, doctors and hospitals poured in on us, and we tried to respond to as many requests as possible as quickly as possible. Our first efforts were focused on direct emergency shipments to pharmacy chains, something that we had not done before,” she explains.
Keeping up the supply of urgently needed products under extreme conditions
The Bayer warehouse about 30 kilometers from Kyiv is the only hub for Pharma and Consumer Health products for the entire Ukrainian market and especially in times of war, these products are urgently needed. While the warehouse is still operating in an emergency mode and with limited capacities so close to Kyiv, Luidmyla’s team also started to shift supplies to their biggest national wholesalers in other, ideally safer, regions to ensure further logistics to pharmacies. “We constantly have to be prepared for unexpected situations. Many colleagues had to step in for others and take on completely new tasks.”
While safety and shelter rather than business continuity are Bayer’s utmost priorities for its staff in Ukraine, many teams like Luidmyla’s are continuing their work voluntarily under extreme stress and exceptional circumstances. Volodymyr Onishchenko, Director of the Bayer corn seeds plant in Ukraine, reports that their site also near Kyiv continues in operation as much as possible. “It’s mainly warehousing activities, but also some repairs and field equipment preparations are taking place. The main part of our team decided to move to safer regions, and they are working remotely, but some of them decided to stay at home. They all live near the plant,” explains Volodymyr.
Ukraine’s agricultural production is essential for the world as the country is one of the most important global suppliers of grains: wheat, corn and other essential commodities such as sunflower or rape seed oil. Known as the breadbasket of the world, the country secures the food supply for parts of the Middle East and East Africa. Today, Ukraine accounts for 16 percent of global corn exports and 12 percent of wheat. Due to the current situation, “this year our corn seeds production will be only for Ukraine,” explains Volodymyr. There is no doubt that the loss of harvest in the country, including corn, will impact the UN sustainability goal of ending world hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.
A difficult balance between safety and duty
On the one hand, the team wants to make sure that most of seeds orders can be shipped in time for the planting season that starts in late April in Ukraine. Not being able to supply would mean that farmers cannot plant – inconceivable for Volodymyr in light of the difficult food supply situation aggravated by the war. Since the conflict started, they have managed to deliver several thousand bags of corn seed. “We are not considering the possibility of not planting at all, we will plant, the only question is how much we will be able to plant under these conditions. We are checking the situation in the country on a weekly basis and correct our plans accordingly,” he explains. On the other hand, the circumstances could not be tougher. “Some of our employees are called up for military service, some of them are involved in local self-defense, and some of them are in regions where any movement is dangerous. The work is further complicated by curfews and constant air alarms. Every time there is an alarm, people have to stop work and go outside, and this happens five to ten times a day.”
Gratefulness for support from around the globe
In light of these extremely difficult and completely unpredictable conditions, Volodymyr is full of gratitude for all the support that the company and the global community is providing: “I want to take this opportunity and say a big thank-you to all people that are praying for us and supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians. We feel your support and it makes us stronger. Please continue, and together we will win!”
Liudmyla Yefremova started a new job on April 1 as S&OP Governance Manager in the Supply Chain Excellence department in Berlin. This had been planned long before the war, but the circumstances of her onboarding where so much different than she had expected a few months ago. “I’m in complete safety now, but some of my colleagues are continuing to work close to the battlefields, out of bomb shelters with air raid sirens in the background,” she says. “All of us are very grateful for the support that we feel these days from our regional colleagues, colleagues in the neighboring countries and across the world. Our normal, happy lives have been destroyed. But with the support of the company and each other, we try to find new ground and build some stability in a most unstable environment. Please continue to stand with us, as you’ve done during these hard days.”
Supporting our employees and the people of Ukraine
Bayer continues to prioritize the safety of its 700 colleagues in Ukraine and will continue to provide them and their families with financial aid, shelter, and evacuation assistance.
In response to the humanitarian crisis, Bayer has established a 3 Million Euro Disaster Relief Fund and provided both monetary assistance and donations of health products like antibiotics to help up to 27,000 Ukrainian patients. Further, Bayer employees have donated more than 1 Million Euro through a Red Cross relief campaign, which the company will be matching.
In addition to the seeds that the team in Ukraine is supplying to farmers, Bayer will donate more than 40.000 bags of seeds to grow food on nearly 30,000 hectares to support small farmers in Ukraine who may have difficulty in accessing input for the 2022 growing season.