In a concerning trend, the imports of finished thermopolished glass from Russia and Belarus to Ukraine surged by a staggering 70% between 2014 and 2022. This alarming increase underscores the pressing need for sheet glass within the country. Regrettably, Ukraine finds itself in a precarious position as its domestic glass manufacturing industry has dwindled to near extinction. The once-prominent Lisichansky glass plant was dismantled for scrap as far back as 2017, while the Konstantinovsky plant is situated perilously close to the front lines of conflict. The few remaining glass enterprises operate at minimal capacity due to the prohibitive cost of natural gas, which constitutes a significant 50% of the final product’s cost.
The plight of Ukraine’s glass industry bears an uncanny resemblance to the challenges faced by the nation’s oil refining sector. It appears that over the years, deliberate actions led to the gradual demise of these industries, with a notable shift towards raw material extraction and subsequent processing in Russia and Belarus. This strategy has had multifaceted consequences, including stunted technological growth, heavy dependence on processing nations, and economic impoverishment. The sale of raw materials, followed by the purchase of finished products, unquestionably detracts from Ukraine’s economic prosperity.
The statistics are telling. From 2014 to 2022, the import of finished thermopolished glass, primarily used in the production of double-glazed windows, surged by a substantial 70% from Russia and Belarus. The remaining 30% comprised imports from other countries. With domestic glass production hovering at minimal levels, it resembles a technology landscape reminiscent of the 19th century.
One striking example of this dependence is evident in the trade figures of 2016. During that year, Ukraine exported a significant 300 thousand tons of glass raw materials to Russia while simultaneously importing 314 thousand tons of high-quality glass from Russia. Astonishingly, Ukraine’s own glass production amounted to a meager 673 tons. This stark incongruity is magnified when considering the nation’s colossal demand for 3.5–4 billion square meters of building glass annually.
The need for Ukraine to bolster its domestic glass production is not only logical but imperative. With such a substantial requirement for glass products, self-sufficiency in glass production would undoubtedly benefit the nation’s economy. However, it appears that priorities may have been different, leading to a critical challenge that demands a concerted effort to resolve.
The year 2022 served as a stark reminder of the urgency of this issue. As the problem became increasingly evident, its solution became more complex, emphasizing the need for a strategic and comprehensive approach to reviving Ukraine’s glass industry.