RUSSIA – Russia is reducing its reliance on imported food and aiming to become self-sufficient. But finding skilled local workers is a challenge.
Russia is one of the world’s largest food importers. When the Soviet Union collapsed there were a total of 42 million cows; now there are just 11 million reports The Telegraph.
In an attempt to reduce Russia’s reliance on food imports, President Dmitry Medvedev said that he wanted Russia to become more self-sufficient. The Food Security Doctrine states that by 2020, the country should be 80 per cent self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs. This includes 85 per cent of meat and meat products, 90 per cent of milk and 95 per cent of grain. This would represent an overall increase of 20 per cent in what is currently produced.
Small producers with personal plots play an important part in Russian agriculture. Many Russians produce only small quantities of food at their dachas, but en masse they produce significant amounts. Many produce milk and grow their own herbs and vegetables. More than half of Russian beef comes from private slaughter, and more than 90 per cent of potatoes come from smallholders.
The state provides subsidies, particularly for keeping animals. The 7 bn euros (£6bn) subsidy from Moscow for farming is significantly less than subsidies enjoyed by European Union farmers: Brussels pays farmers 100bn euros a year. But according to Mr John, Russian agriculture is capable of being competitive even without subsidies. “In Russia, you can already produce at world market prices,” he says.
Russia currently imports one million tons of pork from the EU states every year. Experts predict that in 10 years, Russia will become self-sufficient in pork. In recent years, production of the meat has risen by 8.6 per cent, and poultry has seen a 10 per cent rise. But milk, soya and beef will still need to be imported for a long time, according to agricultural experts.
Grain and canola are already produced in abundance and exported. In 2009, 97 million tons of grain were harvested. There was a lower harvest in 2010 of 60 million tons because of drought and wildfires, but a good harvest is expected this year, as the 1990 level of 117 million tons has almost been reached.
Those investing in the Russian agricultural sector are forecasting a high yield. In July, a Czech-Dutch trust purchased the RAV Agro-Pro company, which owns 4000,000 acres of land in the fertile Black Earth region of south-west Russia. The trust is counting on increasing the value of its produce by 400 per cent in the future.
Russian trade magazines for agribusiness report on large investments in both new and existing Russian agricultural enterprises. Even businesses surrounding agriculture are trying to position themselves advantageously. For example, in 2008, five German seed producers joined to form the German Seed Alliance, with a regional focus on Russia.
£284 million of foreign investment went into agriculture in 2010. 77.9 million hectares of Russian land were cultivated as of 2010 £24 billion: the total value of all the agriproducts produced in Russia from January to July 2011. 108 million tons: the amount of grain produced in 2008 – the highest figure in post-Soviet times.
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