Russia lags behind the domestic production of potatoes from the indicators set by the state itself. The audit of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation showed that the level of self-sufficiency of the country by this vegetable in 2017 will be 90.7% with a threshold value of at least 95%, prescribed in the Doctrine of Food Security. Deliveries of potatoes to the domestic market are steadily falling every year, which is natural for the wave: the sown areas are decreasing, the infrastructure for processing vegetables, logistics and storage is not developed enough. Such fundamental problems of the industry are not quickly solved, therefore experts are afraid of a shortage of potatoes and, as a result, higher prices.
Compared to 2016, Russia’s self-sufficiency in potatoes fell by 7%, and in 2015 it was as much as 15% higher than today. The report of the Chamber of Accounts notes that the reasons for this are a reduction in crop areas by 1.7 times and a decrease in the number of private farms – by 2 million to 18.7 million units over the past 10 years. However, the main problem of the industry in the department was the deficit of potato storage and the problems of logistics. At the same time, most of the storage facilities at the disposal of farmers were built in the Soviet era by long-obsolete technologies. Modern standards, for example, in the Moscow region is responsible for only a fifth of all potato storage. Because of this, the region loses about 30% of horticultural products, which in the end results in losses of regional farmers in 400 million rubles a year. In the Accounting Chamber, the total deficit of storage facilities was calculated: by country: places are missing 1.2 million tons of potatoes. It turns out that everything is in order with production in the country, potatoes are grown and harvested, but the buyer often does not reach, because it disappears due to the lack of storage conditions.
“A year the country produces about 30 million potatoes. At the same time, the norm of consumption of this vegetable per day, according to various estimates, is from 65 to 100 kg per year per person. It is not difficult to calculate that 146 million Russians require a minimum of 9.5 million potatoes and a maximum of 16 million. In any scenario of this tuber, we have more than enough, but paradoxically, the surplus turns into a deficit, “leads the disappointing statistics chief researcher of the Center agro-food policy of the Russian Academy of Science Vasily Uzun in an interview with “MK”.
In the end, we got a situation where a big crop scares farmers more than makes us happy. It turns out that the main enemy of potato producers is low marketability, when the volume of sales is significantly lower than the volume of production. In Russia, this figure is 63% per annum, for comparison, in Europe, about 80% of all grown vegetables are sold, and in some countries – more than 90%.
Experts tend to blame for “potato failures” the organization of all stages of production and logistics. It is clear that in such a huge country as Russia, where fertile southern regions are located thousands of kilometers from the north, it is not easy to transport food, but in other large countries they have learned to cope with this. “In the United States, there is such a standard: next to each agro-complex should be located storage, in which wholesalers and retailers come for products, and then sell in the adjacent region”, – cites the example of Vasily Uzun.
According to the expert, the interference of the authorities could have changed the situation, which, during the implementation of the import substitution program, overlooked the problem of a lack of storage capacities. “Russia is the third country in the world for the production of potatoes, this vegetable grows well in our territory and we could successfully export it. But for this, agrarians should be able to sell their products at an adequate price, while the state should buy it, including from private farms, “our interlocutor believes.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) predicted a significant increase in potato prices in the first half of 2018. The main reason for the rise in price will be that the reserves of domestic potatoes will end earlier than usual because of the cold summer. However, potatoes are not accustomed to the rise of prices: in April 2017 the prices for vegetables have already reached the maximum values for the last five years, adding about 20% per year. It should be noted that tubers in principle are becoming more expensive in the first half of the year – by January local potatoes are disappearing from Russian counters and reappear only in June, and the niche is replaced by an imported one, which is a priori more expensive. By the way, Russia decided to increase purchases: the other day the French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire said that Russia has agreed with his country on the supply of potatoes, for which it even specifically removed part of the restrictions in the framework of the embargo on the supply of agricultural products. Apparently, if the authorities went to such a step, then the problem of shortage of domestic potatoes is really acute. It remains to be hoped that the delicate situation with a possible deficit will not be used by greedy traders and will not raise the price of potatoes to an unthinkable level.