President of Russia Vladimir Putin: We undoubtedly often discuss the development of agriculture in general and support for agriculture at meetings in various formats; I hope that the Minister will now say a few words on the industry’s performance results over the past year.
We also discuss the work of Rosselkhoznadzor from various perspectives, its role and significance, including with regard to animal health. This is a major problem, and we know how it looks and in its regional aspect, as well as from the federal level.
Let us talk today about these issues in a broader format, including the system of electronic veterinary certification – I know you are developing it intensively now. Let us talk about it. But first, I would ask for a few words on the sector’s results.
Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev: Mr President, allow me to report briefly on the current situation in agriculture, and in the agro-industrial complex as a whole.
A few words about the progress in the winter crop sowing and forecasts for the 2019 harvest. In 2018, we collected a decent harvest of 112.9 million tonnes, and now we are already working on the 2019 harvest.
Our winter crops have been sown on an area of 17.7 million hectares. According to regional reports, about 90 percent of all crop areas are in good condition. The situation with the rest will be known after the snow melts.
Vladimir Putin: What was the situation at this time last year?
Dmitry Patrushev: It was about the same, but we estimate that this year will probably be slightly better than last year. The total sowing area for 2019 will be about 80.5 million hectares, 1.2 million hectares bigger than last year.
Now over to the harvest prognosis. Of course, it is too early for this, but we can say that this year, considering the pre-conditions we have, we will probably collect about 108–110 million tonnes. This is a wild guess, so to speak, but still. We plan to harvest about 67 million tonnes of wheat. Of course, as I have said, we will aim to do this and will do our best. Now we are actively preparing for the spring sowing season.
As of mid-January, we have 5.5 million tonnes of seeds available, and we need a total of 5.63 million tonnes for the spring sowing. However, there is no question that we will have enough when the sowing begins.
In addition, farmers have purchased over 101,000 tonnes of active ingredients for mineral fertilisers, which is 13,500 tonnes more than last year. The agricultural equipment is also being prepared for the sowing.
I would like to talk separately about state support and loans to agricultural enterprises and organisations, especially state support.
This year, 303.6 billion rubles have been allocated to implement state support projects, which is significantly more, 50 billion more, than last year. The rise in state support was largely due to the increased financing under the Exports of the Agricultural Products federal project within the May Executive Order, as well as to the new federal project to establish a support system for farming and rural cooperation.
This means that, among other things, state support will be channeled into preferential loans – about 73 billion rubles; supporting exports of agricultural products – about 39 billion rubles; and separate support for crop production – about 11 billion rubles.
In addition, about eight billion rubles is allocated to subsidies aimed at increasing productivity in dairy farming, which means that we continue to support dairy production.
Also, about seven billion rubles are being used to establish a system to support farmers and develop rural cooperation.
And quite a lot of money will go to a single subsidy for the regions, and the regions will decide. But we still want them to do this after consulting with us.
Vladimir Putin: When will it get to the regions?
Dmitry Patrushev: We will be transferring throughout the year. Last year, a very high level of funding went to the regions, very little money was returned.
Vladimir Putin: I see. But still, when will the bulk of the funds arrive?
Dmitry Patrushev: Mr President, if necessary, when they are ready, they will receive money. We do not have a situation where we give a certain amount of money by the end of a year. We will allocate funds steadily throughout the year.
Vladimir Putin: That is what I meant.
Dmitry Patrushev: Throughout the year, we will allocate funds steadily, as needed. And I do not think that there will be any problems.
Last year everything was done on time. It was not as if we gave them money by the end of the year, and they failed to spend it.
Vladimir Putin: We need to work more closely with the regions.
Dmitry Patrushev: Yes, Mr President, we will definitely do that.
In addition, I would like to say a few words about exports before I talk about electronic veterinary certification.
As of January 13 this year, the statistics showed that in 2018 we exported $25.8 billion worth of agricultural produce and food.
Last time I reported that we aimed to reach 26 billion, but I do not think we will manage. The figure will be about one hundred million short of our goal.
At the end of February, we will get a more accurate figure, but I think that it will amount to 25.9 billion – approximately this amount of export earnings.
Grain makes up a major part of our exports – about 40 percent, fish and crustaceans – about 20 percent, foods and processed products – 13.5 percent, and oil and fat products.
Under the export project, we will still try to export products with higher added value.
Vladimir Putin: What do you believe the grain export potential will be this year, given the fact that we still have reserves?
Dmitry Patrushev: Mr President, taking into account the carryover stocks, I think we will be able to export about 42 million tonnes of grain, 36 million tonnes of wheat, if my memory serves me. And these are quite good figures for us, which form a serious export revenue.
However, in the coming years, we will try to work on the quality of the grain that we export in order to gain a foothold in the world market as a producer of high-quality grain. That is, we will be popular among countries that need good, high-quality wheat, high-quality grain.
A little later, we will draw conclusions about how much we will manage to export next year, depending on the overall results of grain production.
Now about electronic veterinary certification. To carry out your instructions regarding the creation of a single traceability system, as of July 1, 2018, all veterinary-related documents in Russia have been drawn up in electronic form.
In December last year, the number of documents processed per day reached six million. That is, according to the results for the month as a whole, more than 137 million veterinary certificates, these veterinary documents, were issued.
Among the leading regions are Moscow and Moscow Region, St Petersburg, Krasnodar Territory, Chelyabinsk Region, Nizhny Novgorod Region, and Sverdlovsk Region.
In general, the work on the introduction of electronic veterinary certification, in our opinion, is proceeding according to the planned indicators, and many regions have already completely switched over to it.
Thanks to this system, we will be able to ensure complete traceability of products: in fact, from raw materials to the shelves in the shops. Therefore, we believe the circulation of counterfeit and forged goods will gradually become impossible.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out illegal activity; the electronic veterinary certification makes every process sufficiently transparent for us and, most importantly, for our consumers, too.
Sergei Dankvert, Head of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision: It just so happened that you personally took part in this whole process. Back in March, 2015, when this decision was being taken, I was asking for fishermen to be left out of this, as they were tiring me out. As it turned out, however, you took the right decision back then. Today, our fishermen are trying to stay in line with everyone else, which yields fascinating results.
The introduction of the changes to the 2015 veterinary law, which came about through your decision, resulted in an interesting dynamic that has been developing ever since. In December 2018, we actually reached 137 million. Previously, there was a total of only 57 million paper certificates issued in Russia…
Vladimir Putin: 137.5 million, to be exact.
Sergei Dankvert: Yes, 137.5 million.
Earlier, only 57 million paper certificates were issued per year. In them, one could write something like “assorted meat products, a total of 200 kg” and, as a result, one was free to transport anything from cervelat sausage to animal hides.
That is why this decision was taken at just the right time. I believe that today we are, in fact, ahead of many countries. Take for instance China, where we were recently, our Chinese colleagues have encountered African swine fever. They simply have no idea what to do, whereas we have already solved this issue by now.
We have electronic certification, regionalisation, which is automatically introduced with the help of an electronic system, compartmentalisation, too, meaning the dividision into compartments according to biological safety levels.
As it turns out, countries with high levels of biological safety can export goods to any location, while countries with low levels cannot export anywhere…
Vladimir Putin: This was one of our goals.
Sergei Dankvert: This was our goal, and we achieved it. And I will tell you that now our European colleagues…
We attended the Green Week, where we met our European colleagues. Of course, they meet us with caution and their reaction is not quite clear, though there are some working issues, but they are interested in using our experience.
Unfortunately, their situation is developing without any control, because, let us say, the number of cases of African fever we have in ten years, they have in one.
Vladimir Putin: Is it increasing?
Sergei Dankvert: Yes, and very significantly. Unfortunately, there are no regulatory mechanisms.
When we explained to our Chinese colleagues that we have a compartment, regionalisation and even online certification and you cannot transfer this any further, they could not understand this yet.
We are achieving now what we strived for and, and, let me say that many regions react in the right way. As I have said, unfortunately, our foreign colleagues have not been supportive from the beginning. It is hard to understand why, but so be it.
As of today, 332,285 legal entities are registered in our system as well as 388,229 self-employed entrepreneurs (farms) and 1,407,489 individuals who have private farms or own cattle.
We tried to do this without much ado and we worked on the system step by step, because, of course, developing such a system for the entire country takes time.
Critics say that we must have spent a lot of money. We have counted almost all the money that has been allocated for electronic support: 130 million.
Vladimir Putin: Establishing order in this area will certainly contribute to the civilised development of agriculture as an industry, and, most importantly, will have a positive effect on people's health.
Sergei Dankvert: Certainly. And it will be very easy to control.
Vladimir Putin: It really works for the consumers.
Sergei Dankvert: It is easy to inspect. And we certainly need to make changes to consumer legislation, because if black caviar was aquacultured, then it should be written that it is aquacultured. If it was made in Russia from Chinese raw materials… When I was in Germany, the labels said ‘aquaculture production – China, packed in Germany’. We also need to avoid misleading labeling – we can already thoroughly trace where something comes from, what it is made of, and how.
Vladimir Putin: This concerns not only caviar, but also ordinary, as they say, basic foods.
Sergei Dankvert: To date, we have all the ready-to-use products… Only ready-to-use dairy products are not included, but all the rest – sausages and that sort of thing. There is no hustle, everyone is working. The number of those involved – you can look through the successful results: large chains and small businesses are applying for veterinary certificates.
Vladimir Putin: You know, this will certainly strengthen our position on the market, and above all, on the domestic market, because it will work in the interests of the consumers.
Sergei Dankvert: And for export, it will be easier to prove the origin …
Vladimir Putin: Of course.
Sergei Dankvert: That is, we aimed to streamline things on the Russian market and have a way to prove the origin and traceability of our food exports. We are making progress.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Sergei Dankvert: Thank you very much for supporting me then.
Dmitry Patrushev: Yes, thank you for the support.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for having these plans implemented and introduced in practice.
As for current work, January is already ending, and agricultural field work will soon begin, especially in the southern regions, so I hope that the industry will be ready for this.
Dmitry Patrushev: We will try, we will do everything.
Vladimir Putin: Good.