Speaking in his annual message to the Federal Assembly, Putin said that Russia, which currently imports 2.3 million tonnes of meat from abroad every year, should aim to completely abandon meat imports by 2018. He added that by 2020, the country should increase meat exports to 600,000 tonnes per year, about 20 times the current volume.
The president also called for similar measures on other food products, pointing out that Russia has the resources needed to achieve these aims, including 55% the world’s fertile lands.
“In the next four to five years, we should reach full independence in all major types of food, and then Russia should become the world’s largest supplier of food. This will open up vast new opportunities for us,” he said.
The heads of Russia’s meat industry have generally supported the President’s initiative. The president of the Russian Meat Union, Sergey Yushin, said: “Russia could not consume by itself the amount of meat which is schedulted to be produced in 2020. And the test of entrepreneurs now is to consider which countries and in what proportions we could feed people in the future.
“Far-sighted representatives of agribusiness have already forced Russian authorities to negotiate regarding the opening of a number of export markets for the Russian meat. Such work is already under way with China and some informal talks have begun with Canada. We must do it now, because any harmonisation of technical barriers certificates will last about three to four years.”
However, market participants said that Russia could only feed other countries with the sufficient government support. According to the chairman of the National Union of Milk Producers Andrei Danilenko, in order to compete with low-cost meat and milk in countries which have strong agricultural support from their governments, the same level of government support must be given in Russia.