Saturday, August 19, 2017

Analysis: Russian ban on foreign seed could have effect on food security

Russia's heavy reliance on foreign seed led the government to ban seed imports from the EU earlier this year, and a recent analysis suggested that the country's policy could cause national food security to bottom out.

A recent analysis from RusBusinessNews said before the ban, the Belorechensky Agro-Industrial Complex headed by Vitaly Dunin, the chairman of the Sverdlovsk Union of Producers and Processors of Potatoes and Vegetables, purchased high-yielding seed potato hybrids from the Netherlands.

After the ban, however, and together with Kartofel and the Agriculture Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Agriculture, the complex established a plan for a breeding center that would allow farmers to import at least 50 percent less foreign seed--a project valued at more than $9 million, with federal and regional government authorities to contribute approximately $3 million each.

Though the project is intended to reduce Russia's reliance on the rest of Europe for seeds with high germinating ability, the plan could have potentially deadly consequences for the agricultural industry.

"Without seed potato coming from foreign countries, we can pull through only for one year, then everything that involves vegetables will come to halt," Dunin said, according to RusBusinessNews.

The potentially harmful consequences of the Russian government's plan are also compounded by price disparities. Overproduction resulting from higher seed viability drives prices down below cost, making it difficult for Russian farmers to profit. Russian farmers have pointed to subsidies provided by the EU to Dutch farmers, who are able to harvest from August to November, while Russian farmers must begin harvesting before the rainy season, which can begin as early as August.

Additionally, Russia followed suit and adopted a similar subsidy program, though it is 10 times smaller than that of the EU and has not delivered the expected results. Farmers in the country have not only struggled against overproduction, they have also failed to recover from 2011 losses.

The RusBusinesNews analysis concluded that the Russian agricultural sector cannot "sail by itself in the market economy," adding that the industry would eventually collapse.