Once negatively considered in Soviet time, the position of Minister of Agriculture in the Russian Federation is now in the front row. Troubled 1930’s years connected to “Dekulakization” are surely part of the past and the country is definitely turning into an agricultural super “wheat” power.
In recent years, the situation has changed (thanks to or because of sanctions/embargo); the export of agricultural products in Russia has even surpassed military equipment and weapons. Agriculture became the pride of the country, and Dmitry Patrushev, a young and ambitious son of the former FSB director, took the minister’s chair. A banker, a graduate of the FSB school, a native of St. Petersburg, like President Putin, Mr Patrushev feels at ease among the political elite and is not afraid to make audacious plans for Russian agriculture. This is especially the case when the government provides generous assistance for the implementation of these plans. In 2019, the total amount of state support will exceed 300 billion rubles against 259 billion rubles of 2018.
So, what to expect from the new minister? Will there be bad surprises for the western countries?
First, Mr Patrushev said that his main goal was to properly distribute the subvention provided by the state budget. Moreover, the focus for him is an increase in exports of agricultural products. Rosselkhoznadzor, the phytosanitary control service, has already announced its intention to tighten the rules for producers and exporters of grains in 2019, in order to raise the quality of Russian products to the highest international standards. Russia seeks to enter the Chinese market, strengthen trade relations with Turkey, countries in Africa and the Middle East.
By 2036, Patrushev set a goal to harvest 150 Mt of grain. To achieve this result, new agricultural land will be introduced into circulation. If you look at the demographic map of Russia, you can see a large number of people in cities (74.27% of urban population in 2017 according to Rosstat) and white spots in the countryside. Mr Patrushev will try to make life in villages attractive again by renovating roads, building infrastructure… Well, Mr Stolypin, a former prime minister of the Russian Empire, has already tried to carry out agrarian reform in the early 20th century but in vain… Let’s see whether Mr Patrushev’s ambitious experiment will be more successful.
The third direction of agricultural development is the creation of a scientific and technical base. In Russia, there is a lack of local seeds and poor development of the selective breeding programs and genetic industries.
So, Mr Patrushev has also big plans for this sector and the question is more about their implementation.
During our crop tour in the South of Russia, we saw the slogan on the barn “Farmer is the elite of the nation.” Well, it took many years to change the attitude of the country towards more consideration for agricultural work.