The 2016 grain harvest in Russia was a bumper crop. That means it was big, well beyond expectations. But 2017 was even bigger. In fact, the 2017 harvest is Russia’s largest, ever. According to Rosstat, a Russian statistics agency, the nation harvested 135.4 million tons of grain, including almost 86 million tons of wheat. This beat the previous record by a million tons. Because of this, Russia’s agriculture ministry revised its exports forecast, projecting that some 50 million tons of grain will be shipped abroad.
In 2017, Russia exported about US $20.7 billion in foodstuff exports, according to RT.com’s report. The list of nations that buy foodstuffs from Russia include:
- Saudi Arabia
- China (which outpaced Egypt as the largest buyer of Russian food last year)
Nevertheless, Russia still imports more food than it exports. The sanctions and counter-sanctions between Russia and the US and other Western nations have actually helped local farmers greatly to establish and strengthen their own footholds in the agricultural economy, but Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an ambitious plan – that Russian food exports should exceed her food imports within as little as four years. President Putin urged increases in the export of meat, and he also called for a greater degree of self-sufficiency in beef, dairy products and vegetables. During his State of the Nation speech on March 1, the President outlined the triumphs achieved and challenges that lie ahead:
In the early 2000s, we were deeply dependent on food imports. The situation has turned around completely. Now we are on the verge of more changes. In just four years from now, we plan to be supplying more food to global markets than we will be importing from abroad. We need to increase exports of meat and high-added value products, as well as to make the country more self-sufficient in beef, milk and vegetable supplies.
I want to stress that development of the agricultural industry is strongly related to commodity production. However, this development must not be at the expense of small farms and their workers. We must support family businesses and farmers. We will develop cooperative agriculture and create conditions for residents of rural areas to increase their income. Every now and then we hear about problems with people’s interests being affected, I am aware of them. Such cases must be taken very seriously.
Nevertheless, I want to say thank you to the agricultural industry workers for the record-breaking harvest of 134 million tonnes. Note that it is more than the record harvest in the Soviet Union. In 1978, the USSR produced 127.4 million tonnes. Now it is common for Russia to exceed 100 million tonnes.
Clearly, such a large harvest has a downside as well. The prices have gone down; there are some storage and transport issues. We have established discount rates on transporting crops by railway until July 1, 2018, to support our producers.
It is necessary to consider extending this measure to the next harvesting seasons as well as to arrange additional deliveries to the Urals, Siberia and the regions far away from ports. We must help those who want and can process crops locally. Added value needs to be increased. Then we can go into the livestock industry with this product. We will certainly discuss these and other problems reported by agricultural workers at the agricultural producers’ forum in March, and will elaborate on additional measures to support the industry.
All in all, now is a great time for some Russian bread!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.