While on a visit to Krasnodar Territory, the President also visited the Kuban Agricultural Holding Company, where he saw how the sugar beet and feed corn harvests are going and took part in the Harvest Day 2011 festival celebrations.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with Krasnodar Territory agriculture sector workers
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends, I just congratulated everyone involved in gathering the harvest in Krasnodar Territory, and I want now to also congratulate you as the heads of the businesses that have made a contribution to achieving this excellent result.
This is a record result in fact, and it is wonderful to see it here this year. Around nine million tons of grain have been collected. This is an excellent harvest level averaging out at around 57 quintals per hectare, and in a number of the businesses represented here today the levels were even higher – 60, 70, or even close to 80 quintals per hectare.
This is the result of a lot of hard work. I want to add that it is also the result of the policy the authorities, both national and here in the region, have followed over these last years in order to achieve these kinds of record levels.
A number of factors, including modern technology and state support, have played their part, but behind all the new technology, state support and investment is the hard toil of the people in the countryside. True, this labour is mechanised today and looks quite different to the past, but it remains a big and difficult job. I congratulate you sincerely on its completion.
Krasnodar Territory is the country’s biggest grain supplier and also one of the leading livestock regions. But there are problems here too, and I am meeting with you today not just to thank you, which I do again gladly, but also to discuss with you the current situation in the sector.
I held a meeting in Michurinsk not long ago and gave instructions to the Government then on various issues, including railway tariffs and also choosing measures to help support exports of Russian grain and grain products.
But your region no doubt has its own particular problems too, which you will certainly also outline. There is the insurance issue for one. In fact, that was the main issue on the agenda at the meeting I mentioned. I hope some of you have had a chance to see the documents from that discussion.
”What we can do to make this year’s excellent harvest the rule rather than the exception, and how to really move forward, reach new heights and put the region’s capabilities on a par with the top international producers in Europe? I think this is a completely realistic goal.“
I have now signed the law that will introduce an insurance system in the countryside and make it part of agricultural businesses’ lives. I hope this law will prove effective, because so far, insurance has barely developed at all in our agriculture sector, and this has caused us big problems and serious consequences.
Last year, large parts of our country were hit by drought and the harvests failed, but regrettably, we did not have insurance mechanisms in place to deal with the situation and had to turn to direct injections of state money instead. The main thing of course is to make Russia’s agriculture sector more competitive, and this we can do only through systemic measures. I propose that we discuss now how to design this system of measures.
I imagine you certainly have your own thoughts on what we can do to make this year’s excellent harvest the rule rather than the exception, and on how to really move forward, reach new heights and put the region’s capabilities on a par with the top international producers in Europe. I think this is a completely realistic goal, so let’s discuss it now, and if you have any other questions I will be happy to answer them too.
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Export support is a very complex issue, particularly given global market situation. But on the other hand, agriculture is the only sector in our country that didn’t decline during the global economic crisis. No doubt, agricultural production will keep growing on a global scale; nevertheless, we understand that there is an objective trend toward price hikes. People do not like this for obvious reasons, but food prices are growing all throughout the world.
I should be accepted that they will most likely continue to rise, and not because agricultural producers want this, but because it is simply an objective trend. This is something we discuss at the G20, when meeting with the leaders of the world’s major nations.
So now, the goal for our country is to design a system of export support for products for which domestic demand is fully met. Of course, we must continue expanding production of foodstuffs where supply is insufficient, increasing our capacities and so on. I believe that export support issues should also be included in the programme as one of the areas of development, because in reality, this is a separate field of work, and a rather delicate one.
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There isn’t a single state that considers promoting its agricultural producers’ interests – lobbying for them, in the direct sense of the word – wrong or objectionable. My foreign colleagues do not shy away from it. They call me regarding seemingly private issues and start talking about quotas and other issues; in other words, they are actively lobbying for their businesses, and that’s legitimate.
I think we are to learn to do the same, not just at the level of the President, the Prime Minister, or the Agriculture Minister – other agencies must get involved too, including the Foreign Ministry, as well as the Economic Development Ministry, which must act through trade missions and methodically champion our agriculture sector. Only then will we have proper results.
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In our talks with leaders of the European Union, the United States and other nations, we are trying to stand up for our agricultural producers as much as possible. I generally believe that we have been quite successful in rebuffing excessive requirements to our country. Some nations, including our neighbours (there is no point to name them as you, given your professional experience, can easily guess who I’m referring to), have given up [and accepted such requirements], as it were, without a fight, and now their situation is entirely different. When I look at the state of their agriculture and even the appearance of their fields (I passed over them a while ago in a helicopter), it makes me very sad, but those are their problems, which they must resolve themselves, God help them. So we are obligated to maintain everything we have achieved – everything that has cost us money, effort, resources and sweat.
”In our talks with leaders of the European Union, the United States and other nations, we are trying to stand up for our agricultural producers as much as possible. And we have been quite successful in rebuffing excessive requirements to our country.“
As for our positions in negotiation and the state of our agriculture overall, what can I say? We are still at the very beginning of our journey, and we are far away from the desired results in many respects, otherwise, perhaps we would not be holding meetings like this, and the issue would not be getting as much attention from myself and the Government; things would just follow their own course.
But on the other hand, I find it quite important that we’ve achieved a significant transformation in the last five years, and the attitude toward Russia in the world has changed. I will tell you bluntly: things would be different if we were joining the WTO five or seven years ago, and there was a chance for that then.
Indeed, I remember the meetings of our cabinet of ministers, the Government, where each time my colleagues would say, “This year, in 2003, we will join the WTO.” But today, it’s 2011, and we are still not members. I am certain that [in case of becoming a WTO member many years ago] it would have been much harder to stand up for the interests of our agricultural producers than it is today, because now, our national agriculture is completely different [from what it was a decade ago] and our partners appreciate we will not waste our achievements. If we look ten or twelve years back, our economy was extremely weak and we could be economically pressed in whatever respect, be it meat, grain or rice production or anything else. Now, the economic situation is different, you all work hard and the [Agriculture] Ministry is active.