Russia’s ambitions to become an agricultural superpower

From 2001 when he came to power, Vladimir Putin explained his intention to restore Russian agriculture and put in place agricultural policies oriented towards the market: the land was partially liberalized, large “agro-holdings” were established and to develop the sector the Russian authorities decided to support prices by establishing tariff barriers at market entry.

Since 2014, the Ukrainian crisis at the origin of the embargo on European imports has reinforced this Russian ambition for its agriculture. Between 2013 and 2020, the Kremlin budgeted € 52.5 billion for its agricultural policy, by supporting the modernization of agricultural equipment and technical means necessary to increase production, but also more generally the development of rural areas. Farmers are thus supported by aid per hectare, milk quality premiums, and aid for meat production.

Since that year, the crisis with the neighboring country and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian armed forces, at the origin of the embargo on European imports, have reinforced this Russian ambition for its agriculture. The Kremlin has budgeted more than 50 billion euros for its agricultural policy, by supporting the modernization of agricultural equipment and the development of new technologies. The result was spectacular: wheat production doubled in just five years.

And it is far from over. “Given the potential allowed by global warming and the ambition carried by the Moscow authorities, it seems certain that Russia will be able to produce in the near future, around 120 Mt of wheat,” said Jean-Jacques Hervé. He added: “Domestic consumption should remain relatively stable”.

In 2017, Russia harvested 84 million tons (Mt) of common wheat, confirming its position as the world’s fourth producer and above all establishing itself as the world’s leading exporter with around 35 Mt shipped around the world. With this new record, Russia thus reconnected with the glorious past of the Soviet era during which the country was “the granary of the planet”.

The Russian plan to lead the country to a new (agricultural) Revolution

For the former agricultural adviser near the French Embassy in Moscow, Jacques Hervé, the northernmost regions of the country would see their yields increase and land, now fallow, would become productive. Jean-Jacques Hervé is probably your best option if you want to speak about the agriculture of Russia and Ukraine General engineer of bridges, water, and forests, member of the French Academy of Agriculture, for seven years he was an agricultural advisor to the French Embassy in Russia and four years advisor to the Ukrainian government for Agriculture and Food.

This connoisseur of the Black Sea countries was the guest, on December 3, of the Association of Friends of the French Agricultural Academy (4AF) to talk about the consequences of climate change on Russian agriculture.

His analysis is clear: Russia should profit economically from the expected rise in temperatures. Already the world’s leading wheat exporter, global warming coupled with technological progress could transform the country into an agricultural superpower. He explained. “In some areas bordering China, wheat production could double thanks to irrigation and temperature supplement”.

Long neglected, agriculture is now one of Russia’s strategic priorities, which had to develop its production potential after the embargo it decreed in 2014 on European and American products, in reaction to the economic sanctions they imposed. suffered in the context of the Ukrainian crisis. Russia became the leading wheat exporter in 2017, yet it is far from having maximized its production potential. The dynamic could accelerate in the years to come.

The Ukrainian affair represented the opportunity to stimulate its production. The oil income made it possible to invest in companies, in technologies, seeds, production equipment” explained Jean-Jacques Hervé.

“An incredible production potential is being set up around large companies, which invest in the best techniques”, explains Jean-Jacques Hervé. The export balance in corn and wheat in Ukraine, today 40 Mt, will increase to 80 Mt within five years, specifies the specialist. In Russia, the 120 Mt could quickly rise to 150 Mt or even 200 Mt. Jean-Jacques Hervé specifies that domestic consumption will not be able to not increase much in these two countries.

Climate change could make Russia great again - Science & Health ...

Adapting the strategy to the new world: climate change and organic market

Beyond investing in techniques, climate change could also boost Russian and Ukrainian yields in areas already exploited. In southern and western Siberia, with one or two degrees of temperature more, the gain is a few hundred-degree days. While currently, crops can only be grown from May to the end of August, so there would be the possibility, with global warming, of growing even early corn. “In this area, we will have a significant capacity to increase yields on the land currently available”, estimates Jean-Jacques Hervé.

It is clear that there is a huge global organic market with a turnover of 100 billion, and for sure Russia wants its piece of the pie. An ambition displayed by Vladimir Poutine, who, in December 2015, proclaimed his intention that “Russia will become the world’s leading exporter of organic products “.

“In 2014, we started exporting organic products,” recounts Stanislas Guriev, from Sibbio products. All over the world, demand for organic products is growing. We intend to follow the world train”. In Russia, the demand for organic products is confined to cities where purchasing power is higher.

“With the embargo, we cannot import the organic food products that a certain part of the population asks for, so we will produce them.” It is not only for its internal market that Russia wants to produce organic but above all for export, which is more profitable.

“For example, in France, consumers are more and more attentive to production conditions and are ready to pay more for organic products”, underlines Stepan Shibaev, an international commerce executive in Russia for Bretagne Commerce International.

For the moment, it is in field crops for animal feed, that Russia is testing itself in organic farming with cereals (barley, oats, rye) but also oil-protein crops (rapeseed, peas). Even though organic represents less than 1% of Russian production, part of it is already exported. “Our main consumers are the Netherlands and the United Kingdom,” stresses Stanislas Guriev, “since this year, we are also producing gluten-free oats and soon, we will also be selling organic oils and cakes”.

If it wants to export, Russia knows that it will have to be irreproachable in terms of production conditions and traceability. On January 1, a law was promulgated to develop production. “It will also harmonize Russian standards with international requirements,” says Ms. Galina, from the national certification body. All producers will be accredited by government agencies”. The main purpose of this law to ensure that everyone is checked three times more than in Europe.

“70 producers are certified to EU standards, around 100 are in the process of being converted,” assures Serguey Korshunov, president of the Union of Organic Agriculture of Russia. This could seem anecdotal if not for the size of the farms, which greatly exceeds a thousand hectares. In the Ortcozka region, there is only one certified organic farm, but it covers 12,000 ha.

The Belgorod region has an ambition of 700,000 ha. converted to organic. If you compare with the 476,000 hectares that are organic or in conversion in the Occitanic regions, the leading organic region in Western Europe, or the 2 million hectares that are organic or in conversion throughout France, you can realize the magnitude of the Russian ambitions: in the long-term, Russians would be looking to convert 30 million hectares to organic.

In Russia, exports jumped to 905,000 tons during the week ending July 21. This is 2.4 times more than the previous week (377,000 tons). The main destinations for Russian wheat were Turkey (134,000 tons), Egypt (119,000 tons), and Oman (116,000 tons), a country on the Arabian Peninsula.

During the 2019/20 season, Russian wheat exports to Turkey were significant. “In Turkey, wheat imports jumped 67% to register 10.7 mtons in 19/20. Russia was the biggest supplier, accounting for 3/4 of total imports,” said Andrey Sizov, Managing Director of SovEcon. However, “in 20/21, imports should decrease significantly due to increased harvests and stocks. “

In Russia, weekly barley exports reached 94,000 tons and maize 26,000 tons. The cumulation since July 1 has risen to 446,000 tons for barley and 91,000 tons for corn. While barley exports increased by 2% compared to last year, corn loadings fell by 36%.

Where is Russia stood now? Will the country achieve its ambitious goals?

Russia is the largest country on the planet, with nearly 17 million km2. Endowed with very fertile arable black soils, the country exploits 220 million ha, that is to say as much as the European Union and Ukraine combined. After a sharp decline in agricultural production following the dismantling of the former USSR in 1991, cereal production in Russia recovered sharply from the mid-2000s following significant private productive investments and the reorganization farms.

“It is a kind of agriculture of firms, financialized, which is setting up”, indicated Jean-Jacques Hervé.

In Russia, most of the territory is covered with taiga, an area of ​​forest where the frost is very long, the thaw also and the soils are impassable. The only agricultural lands are the naturally fertile black soils, which begin in Central Europe, extend into Ukraine and extend along the Caucasus, to the borders with Kazakhstan and China. In total, 220 million hectares of agricultural land is used by Russia, an area barely equal to Europe, if we add Ukrainian agricultural land. Today, these 220 millions of hectares produce 120 million tons per year in good years.   

However, in 2017 Russia became the leading exporter of wheat, to everyone’s surprise, thanks to competitiveness based on economies of scale – the first major Russian agricultural group owns 600,000 hectares – and on integration (for animal productions).

Infographic: Russia's agribusiness

“There is a very high concentration of capital, we are in financialized agriculture”, explains Jean-Jacques Hervé. Russian agriculture also benefits from the cash economy, which prevails in the country (to capture foreign currency to protect them from internal speculation). About twenty holding companies hold most of the land and are implementing an export strategy: dislodging exporters established on world markets.

For several years, the Russians have thus exported their wheat to Mediterranean markets via the Don, a river which gives them access to important outlets in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Iran. Through the railroad network, Russia exports from Kazakhstan to the West or Asia (especially Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia).

Overall, in the years to come, the increase will be based on performance. In the Barnaul region, where production will be concentrated, the Russian production will go from 2 t/ha of wheat to 4 or 5 t/ha because the temperature and water will allow them to be reached, in association with extremely mechanized agriculture.

At the same time, storage structures are improving thanks to the injection of capital obtained from gas and oil. And the dynamic should continue: “Today, Russia knows that in the medium term, it will export less gas and less oil”, since due to climate change, buyers will turn to greener energies, explains the specialist.

The result is spectacular: wheat production has doubled in just five years. That of sugar has quadrupled in eighteen years.

“Given the potential of areas still not exploited and the ambition of the authorities, it seems certain that Russia will be able to produce, in the more or less short term, around 120 mtons. of wheat”, explains Alexis Brault, a consultant at ODA. “It remains to be seen when?”. Asks the specialist.

At the current rate of development, and without major climatic incidents, this level of production could be reached as early as 2022. In the slowest of the scenarios envisaged, it would be within 10 years.

This way, we have learned that Russian power is increasing regarding its importance in the global agricultural market, it comes from the need of self-protection against the external threats from the country, but its success certainly is based on the strength of the Russian people and the knowledge of the techniques needed to develop the best practices around the world to become the first option to buy and sell, in a world that, more than ever, needs a constant supply of agricultural products.

Spring vs. Winter Garlic Varieties

If you are wondering what winter garlic and spring garlic is and which are the main differences between them, this article is for you.

When speaking of plant varieties, there are many things to take into consideration. Since each variety changes depending on the specific features of a region, soil quality and nutrients, temperature, among many other factors.

Garlic, in this case, is a strong plant that is usually grown for cooking matters, as well as health remedies since it has many nutritional and additional properties. It is a bulbous plant that can be grown in two ways: spring and winter. It is quite simple, the type of garlic consists of the planting and harvesting time.

On one hand, spring garlic contains more nutrients, but its cloves are smaller than those planted in winter times, and they are less resistant to frosts. When winter varieties are more yielding and bigger due to the harsh conditions they have to endure.

The following are the main differences and characteristics that we need to know when choosing a garlic variety.

Spring Garlic

First of all, as we already mentioned, this variety is planted in springtime. It has a complex egg-shaped bulb, which consists of cloves covered by a thin film. In these varieties, the number of teeth is greater, and they are randomly arranged since they have no stem in the middle.

To identify a spring variety from a winter variety, you should now that spring garlic is the size of a small onion, has a many teeth, up to 30 cloves, which are located in a spiral in several rows and with no apparent order since there is no stem in the middle to hold them together. The flesh is dense and therefore suitable for long-term storage without losing its qualities.

For spring garlic, moisture saturation of the ground plays a very important role as well as drainage, since rotting can be obtained from excessive moisture. It is crucial to prepare a bed of water before planting, and plant garlic in a damp ground. Light, loamy soil is best for spring garlic and even better if it is enriched with organic matter such as compost.

Rainy weather will accelerate ripening, while dry and hot weather will slow down the process. Also, the yield is affected by the nature of storage in winter: if the bulbs are stored at a temperature of 18 degrees and abovethe garlic will grow large, but it will mature longer. And when stored in a cool place at about 5 degrees – the plant will be small, but the crop will ripen earlier. Therefore, some gardeners recommend putting saplings in a cool place a month before planting.

Although there are many varieties of spring garlic, here are the gardeners favorites:

  • Abrek
  • Kledor
  • Yelenovsky
  • Aleisky
  • Victorio

Winter Garlic

In cold climates such as Canada, Russia or Germany, most garlic crops are planted in the fall because the plant requires a natural dormant period that includes exposure to cold temperatures. Therefore, when the garlic is planted before winter, it puts down roots until the weather reaches freezing temperatures and then waits until next season to continue growing. This fall growing period allows the garlic to get an advantage and then grow outstandingly once temperatures warm up. Gardeners, as a rule, prefer this type for its taste and ability to take root.

Winter garlic has external differences: in size, it is like a large onion, consists of several big teeth (6-10 pieces), which are located evenly around the stem. There are three ways in which it can be planted: prongs, single-edged bulbs (grown from aerial onions) and aerial onions.

Growing winter garlic is easy, but there are a number of features needed to have a great crop. The soil should be fertile, so it is better to choose loamy or sandy; acidity of the soil should be neutral and Garlic can be planted both separately or next to other plants without affecting them.

The main varieties of winter garlic that can withstand almost freezing temperatures are:

  • Winter Komsomolets
  • Zubrenok
  • Novosibirsk
  • Alkor
  • Garkua
  • Garpek
  • Hermann
  • Gribovsky anniversary
  • Komsomolets
  • Lyubasha
  • Messidor

It is important to pay attention to the ripening period and relate it to your local weather conditions.

Which variety should you choose?

Consider the following points when choosing a variety:

  1. If safety is a priority, think of deciding on a spring variety. The weather is milder and there is almost no risk of losing the crop in the spring.
  2. Determine the season you need to harvest your garlic in order to decide which variety suits you best.
  3. If the size of your garlic is important, winter garlic is larger than spring garlic.
  4. If you want more nutrients, choose spring garlic as it is believed to be more beneficial and nutritious.
  5. Consider that each type has a specific storage time. Therefore, define how long you are going to need to store your garlic and choose the variety accordingly.

It is important to know that no variety is better than other. Each type has advantages, disadvantages and unique features that would help us choose the one that fits best for our region, temperature and soil characteristics.

Any of these species is good in its own way, therefore knowing the differences of spring garlic from winter, you can easily choose the most optimal option for yourself.

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