What other than grain could Russia export? Why is large agribusiness not investing in the development of agricultural technologies? What should the Village of the Future look like?
About this "AiF" talked with the director of the All-Russian Institute of Agrarian Problems and Informatics. A. A. Nikonov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Petrikov.
Andrey Prokofiev, AiF: Russia is breaking records in grain harvest and export. But the fact that it is necessary to export abroad not grain in the holds, but flour in barrels, was said back in the 19th century. Does our country have the opportunity to switch from exporting raw materials to more technological products?
Alexander Petrikov: We are just starting to tackle the problem of transition from export of agricultural raw materials to export of food, and then products of deeper processing. Until now, the share of grain in the structure of exports of the agro-industrial complex is about 30%, while the products of the food and processing industry are 15%. The solution to this problem is associated with large investments not only in processing, but also in the microbiological industry, which was practically destroyed in the 1990s. For example, the production of amino acids from cereals was destroyed.
A few years ago, we did not have the capacity to produce the essential feed protein lysine. Now a number of factories are operating and under construction, but the product will find demand primarily in the domestic market, although it also has export potential. It took us about 15 years to solve the problems of import substitution and the transition to export of primary products. Approximately the same period is required to expand exports.
However, we shouldn't forget about traditional exports either. Grains and other types of raw products are traded in very high-tech countries. For example, the United States, which is jealous of the fact that Russia is becoming the leader in grain exports. In addition, grain is a grain of strife. We are quite capable of increasing the export of high-quality grain with high baking properties.
- One economist told me how surprised he was when he heard an advertisement in Germany with the slogan: “Buy organic products from Russia!”. Do you think it is possible to develop this brand of our agriculture?
- Our organic export potential is quite large. Russia, unlike the United States and many other states, is a GMO-free country. And the demand for high quality, including organic, products will only grow. Quality food is a means of strengthening immunity, which will be especially appreciated in the post-pandemic world.
There is an opinion that the production of organic products, in which the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators and feed additives is prohibited, is based on archaic technologies. This is a deep misconception. In fact, organic farming is no less knowledge-intensive than traditional farming. For example, the development and application of biological methods for restoring soil fertility and protecting plants from pests and diseases is a more difficult task than using artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
Promotion of organic products to the market also requires new, often non-trivial approaches. Advertising, exhibitions and festivals are not limited here. The most important channel for the popularization of organic matter, as shown by foreign experience, is rural and agricultural tourism. Tourists who come to the countryside are a priori determined to buy products from local producers, including organic ones.
No less significant is the development in large cities of cooperative trading networks and sites selling products of small and medium-sized farms, as an alternative to large retail. In addition to popularizing regional, including organic, products, this contributes to the development of competition, which means lower prices.
"Farmers will feed the country!" - this slogan is a thing of the past, says the head of the poultry farm, creator and head of the Fermer portal. u Alexey Volozhanin.
- Alexey Evgenievich, how did the pandemic affect farmers?
- Nothing. Now, when more than six months have passed since its inception, this can be stated unequivocally. Yes, some farmers experienced certain problems with seasonal workers from neighboring countries, others with the supply of spare parts, but somehow these issues were resolved. Nobody closed down, stopped working. After all, we know our country and we are in a constant tone, expecting some surprises, we know how to meet them - our people are ready for anything, especially people working in agriculture. So this industry at least did not suffer from the coronavirus crisis, and someone even earned more.
- Today there is a lot of talk about the fact that the future belongs to agricultural cooperation. Do you agree with this?
- It's no secret that the state primarily supports agro-industrial complexes. Many farmers complain about this, but like those hedgehogs who cried, injected, but continued to eat the cactus, they try to develop not “thanks”, but “in spite of”. What are the origins of this persistence?
- Yes, of course, the main rate of both the state and state money is on large agricultural holdings. There is no doubt that the state supports agriculture, but most of this support goes to them. Farmers also receive something - per hectare subsidies, subsidies for the introduction of abandoned fields, for fodder, but after all, you have to bear responsibility for them. I know those who rely solely on grants and subsidized support, but this is the wrong approach to business.
About the support from the state, I would say this: walked, walked, found a treasure - oh, great! But if you count on the fact that, they say, I will start an agricultural business, and then begin to receive subsidies from the state, then this will be the road to nowhere. Of course, we need our own money, and those that are not a pity to lose - in our country all business is risky, and agricultural business is doubly risky. And the entrance to this business is becoming more and more expensive every year.
The stamp “agriculture is a way of life” has long been a thing of the past, and rightly so. Have you ever heard, for example, that “metallurgy is a way of life”? Yes, agriculture takes a lot of effort, time, money, but you cannot call it a way of life, because, first of all, we come there to earn money.
So, these new people, coming into agriculture to make money, bring there their experience, their background that they got in another business, they bring their money and their concept of business. Their only weak link is the confidence that if they give their employees a salary slightly higher than the market average, then there will be no end to those who wish. Many stumble about this.
- What about the desire to feed the country?
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