Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Russia to reclaim idle land to boost production

Russia continues to push agriculture as part of its broader economic policy, this time by returning idle land back in to production.

Earlier this week the Deputy Minister of Agriculture said that “the task is to return to operation of agricultural land, as well as involvement in the turnover of new agricultural land to obtain high yields”.

He added that effective work in this direction requires the collaboration of Ministry of Agriculture and regional agribusiness administration.

Not entirely sure how regional agribusiness administration will contribute but he will require the active collaboration and investment of regional agribusinesses to carryout operations and pay for seeds, fertiliser, sprays, fuel, machinery and labour in order to realise his vision of returning idle land back in to effective production.

From my experiences there is a reason why this land is not in production.

More often than not it's marginal land which was the first to be abandoned when economics tightened as it was not capable of producing viable yields, so I’m not entirely convinced it should be brought back into production, not growing crops anyway.

Much of this land would suit extensive grazing of cattle particularly the local hardy breeds adapted to scorching summers, freezing winters and low quality grazing and given that in 2015 Russia imported over half a million tonnes of beef that makes more sense than growing crops that might break even in a good year.

The Minister might also want to take a look at the current cultivation and rotation practices particularly in drier eastern regions where land is cultivated and left barren for a season to allow soil moisture reserves to build up.

If he is going to spend money then a few roubles on introducing direct drilling and soil water conservation techniques will likely pay greater dividends than trying to grow wheat on land that is just not up to the task.