Russia emerging as the new agricultural epicenter | Pakistan Today

Russia emerging as the new agricultural epicenter

  • Pakistan could learn a thing or two

 Today, Russia is a major player in the global wheat and grain market. Its numbers leave behind all global powers. The credit for this goes to the grain industry of Russia, which has brought back the confidence in an erstwhile dead economy, by bolstering the agriculture sector.

Russian agricultural production has increased around 20% in the last half a decade, despite the broader recession. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his joy by dubbing it a “breakthrough”, while discussing these figures in a meeting with growers and farmers.

In 2017, Russia’s revenues from agriculture exports reached over $20 billion. Grains have been the star of the show, as Russia became the number one exporter of wheat for the first time in 2016. Russians have started to underline that, for them, “grain is now second oil”.

Russia’s wheat export exceeded that of the United States and the European Union, respectively. Russia currently holds a 22% share of the global wheat market with the EU and the US, accounting for 14% and 13%, respectively. This is a remarkable achievement for a country that was close to becoming a net food importer a few years ago.

This episode encouraged Russia to invest adequately in the country’s agriculture sector with a $70 billion investment package to boost productivity in the agriculture sector via improved infrastructure and logistics. The Agriculture Ministry reported in the third quarter of 2019 that it is targeting grain production of 150.3 million tonnes by 2023, a conspicuous attempt that could prove to be instrumental in achieving the country’s target of $45 billion agricultural export by 2024.

Since the collapse of the USSR, the agricultural sector has gone through a lot of transformation, from “an insufficient collective model to the sufficient capitalist model.”

Islamabad should ban – or starts with controlling – imports. Then gradually, there should be a complete ban on importing cereals and vegetables, complemented with proper planning and kisaan packages. This can prove to be a turnaround for the sluggish economy of Pakistan.

According to the head of SovEcon, an agricultural consultancy in Russia, the agriculture sector remains in private hands, which boosted the competition in the country. Now the role of the state has increased in the agriculture sector. It is another positive for the Russian economy. In 2014, Moscow decided to ban agricultural imports from nations which had sanctioned Russia, giving an additional boost to the local growers.

Back in history, Russia was a big agrarian exporter. Then a Bolshevik collective approach wiped out farming culture and created an inefficient cooperative system, which forced the Soviet Union to import grain and other food items.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, farmers and growers had to learn modern agriculture growing system and reforms. They travelled the world to study the best management practices systems, to learn about the private ownership and mainly how people work for themselves.

Over the decades, the government made agriculture a national priority and showed support by offering subsidies, along with investment in machinery and land. The government recognized the newfound strength of local competitors. One proof of this was the closing of an American trade group after 26 years of operations.

Russia has increased its market share in the Middle East and Africa. Russian weather conditions, and its geographical location, helped them beat the competitors in America. They grabbed the market by lowering prices, and banning agricultural imports from western counties. Now Russia is targeting other distant markets, such as Indonesia and Mexico.

Pakistan has excellent potential for grain and vegetable production. This is where we can learn from Russian practices, especially from the fact that they started doing well after banning imports from western counties.

The local farmers and growers seized the opportunity, and began growing grains – wheat, barley, et al. – now they are the leaders in grain production. The same can be followed in Pakistan.

Islamabad should ban – or starts with controlling – imports. Then gradually, there should be a complete ban on importing cereals and vegetables, complemented with proper planning and kisaan packages. This can prove to be a turnaround for the sluggish economy of Pakistan.

Pakistani and Russian agriculture sectors have many similarities. Neither country is a stable economy. Food security is a common problem for both – Russia still imports more food than it exports. But Russia is on track, approaching its goal of feeding itself. In the last five years, Russia has become self-sufficient in the poultry industry. If Russian agriculture can grow from scratch, why not Pakistan’s?

Wheat is staple food outside Pakistan as well. The whole of South Asia eats wheat and rice. Therefore, we can earn a good share of our trembling economy by focusing on grain, vegetable, and poultry industry.

The time has come to explore every available option to help Pakistan’s economy. By initiating a comprehensive plan, and a channelized approach, in collaboration with astute think-tanks, who know agriculture in a real and proper sense, with modern application and competition, Pakistan too can take strides towards self-sufficiency.

The author is a doctoral candidate at China Agricultural University, Beijing

Sumeera Asghar Roy

The author is a doctoral candidate at China Agricultural University, Beijing.



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