Counter-culture, professional discourse | Russia’s evolution into an agricultural superpower

chr. Anton Smedshaug, Managing Director Agri Analysis

In 1995, wheat production was in the former Soviet Union, now called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CUS), 55 million tons of wheat and they had to import about 5 million tons more wheat.

SUS included on it times Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, in addition to eight other countries that joined this cooperation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, resulting in a total of 15 new states. At that time, there was a lack of funding, thus plant protection products, mineral fertilizers, seeds, etc., and many lands lay fallow due to unclear ownership conditions after the collapse of one communities and the state. farms.

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Fast forward to 2005 The SUS is still considered a unit in which Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, i.e. now includes only the European part of the Soviet Union, and production has not increased so significant compared to 10 years earlier. Production has now increased to around 67 million tonnes of wheat. Wheat is used here as an indication of the efficiency and development of SUS agriculture. By comparison, North America (US and Canada) harvested 90 million tonnes this year. It is easier to compare these figures with North America, which has a fixed geographical size, and with the EU, which changes scope regularly.

In 2009, 18 years later After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, FAO statistics begin to distinguish Ukraine from Russia, leaving room for a different development for the countries of the former Soviet Union. At the same time, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) is developing a better representation of world production.

This change has hooked as well as increased pressure on FAO to provide better data and information related to the previous food supply crisis of 2008-2012/3. In 2009, we see that Ukraine and Russia are close to reaching the same level of wheat production as Canada and the United States, which is 80 to 85 million tonnes.

Let’s move on Compared to the years before the 2022 invasion, the situation has changed dramatically, the three-year average (2019-2021) of the combined wheat production of Ukraine and Russia is then significantly higher than that of Ukraine. North America. Today, Russia alone equals North America with production of around 80 million tonnes, while Ukraine has reached 30 million.

Russia now has a a population much smaller than that of North America, ie 145 million compared to nearly 370 million. This means that Russia can export a large part of its harvest. Certainly not as much as Canada – one of three countries with a very high export share of production, along with Australia and Kazakhstan. The latter’s exports are mainly destined for neighboring countries in Central Asia, while some transit through Russia and the Black Sea.

For this year 2023, we will see how Ukrainian production has been hit hard by the war, as wheat production has almost halved from the 2019-2021 average. Russia, on the other hand, continues to expand and, paradoxically, in 2022 recorded the best wheat harvest ever, with more than 100 million tonnes. in 2024, the harvest is estimated at 83 million tonnes.

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It means Russia has gone from being a wheat importer 30 years ago to being the world’s largest exporter in 2024, with exports estimated at 45 million tonnes, or as much as North America combined. In a world where many countries have large import needs, wheat has become a strategic commodity and an excellent opportunity to exercise political and military power, as well as to obtain hard currency. Because the Black Sea supplies the Mediterranean, it offers great opportunities for Russia, and North Africa alone imports 30 million tons of wheat per year.

Middle East and Türkiye are also major importers of wheat. Beyond the Black Sea, it is above all France which has a surplus of wheat and which is competitive in the Mediterranean itself.

Russia is now stimulated cheap and high-priced production, while competing Ukraine struggles with damaged and mined fields, destroyed production facilities and attacked export facilities. Russia’s dominance in wheat exports and its development as an agricultural superpower will probably continue, while Ukraine will return to a situation similar to that of the 1990s, where a lot has to be rebuilt – now for the second once in a generation, in order to realize the country’s production potential.

Paradoxically, it is The annexation of Crimea and the ensuing invasion are expected to boost Russian agriculture by creating value chains and boosting production.

Wheat production in various areas and countries in millions of tons 1995-2023 and exports in 2024:

1995 2005 2009 2019-21 2023 Export 2023
North America 90 83 85 79 79 45 (25+20)
SUS 55 67
Russia 61 79 83 45
Ukraine 20 30 17 ten

In October, Smedshaug will publish the book “Can Agriculture Feed the World? at University Press.

Adele Matthews

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