Russia should not allow a desire, stimulated by the Ukraine
crisis, to lift military spending to undermine support for farming, one of the
country's top agricultural entrepreneurs said.
Stefan Duerr - founder of the EkoNiva group of agricultural
companies, which stretch from dairy production to tractor sales – said that said
that the situation for Russian farmers was currently "not so bad", with
prospects from Moscow for support more than outweighing the current fallout
from the annexation of Crimea.
"The state once again is declaring farming among its
priorities, meaning that it will support the farmers and enable them to turn
out more food," Mr Duerr said.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, last month ordered
the government to work on measures such as improving road infrastructure and setting
up agricultural wholesale distribution centres to support the country's shrinking rural
At 37.1m, it accounts for 26% of the country's total population, down from figures of 42m, and 30%, in 1980.
'Consequences may be
However, the threats by Western powers of economic sanctions
against Russia following the invasion of Crimea had put the country "in a
rather vulnerable position" which represented a significant threat to farmers.
"Effective development of the farming industry needs
imported agricultural equipment, seeds, chemicals, veterinary preparations,
semen," Mr Duerr said.
If the breakdown of relations between Moscow and the West
led to sanctions, farming could be "hit really hard and the consequences may be
'Food security just
The fallout from the Ukraine ructions could also cause
domestic damage to farmers' interests, if it inspires Russia to build up its
military spending at the expense of investment in agriculture.
"Another consequence of the crisis may be the build-up of
the defence budget.
"It is desirable that this not happen at the expense of
funds allocated for developing the farming sector, since food security is just
as important as military security," Mr Durr.
"People must be supplied with domestically produced food and
the country must be duly protected against foodstuff shortages."
The comments came in a message to celebrate 25 years of his
empire, which includes the Ekoniva Group, which claims to be Russia's biggest milk
producer – with output of more than 400 tonnes of milk a day from 46,500-strong
cattle herd – besides having a large arable operation within its 196,000 hectares
Mr Duerr, a German national, was late last year granted Russian
nationality by Mr Putin "in recognition of his achievements for Russia's
He was in 2009 awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for
his contributions to agricultural policy dialogue between Germany and Russia.
SovEcon, the Moscow-based agricultural analysis group, on
Tuesday raised by 2m tonnes to 90m tonnes its forecast for Russia's grains
harvest this year, including 50m tonnes of wheat, citing the extra supplies
The forecast for grain exports was also raised, by 2m tonnes
to 24m tonnes, including 17.5m tonnes of wheat.