President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues.
This Security Council meeting today is to examine the Food Security Doctrine. I hope that this document will be entirely practical in nature and will be one of the means for implementing our National Security Strategy for the period to 2020, which I recently approved. I hope the Strategy and the Doctrine will help to resolve a number of practical tasks: making food affordable, increasing control over food safety, and helping in general to ensure normal food supply in the country.
The international community is worried about the global food security issue. This is not a new issue. It has been on the agenda for a while now and is one of the priority items at practically all international gatherings. International experts say that if two or more generations in a row face hunger — and this is the situation in a whole number of countries – physiological and intellectual degradation starts to take place at the genetic level.
Global trends today are such that food is every bit as strategically important as financial resources and energy security. This is one of the reasons why it is the Security Council that is examining this issue.
Today’s Russia must make full use of its unique agricultural potential to not only guarantee supplies of the main foodstuffs but also, we hope, regain the status it once had as one of the world’s leading foodstuffs exporters.
To remind you of some figures that I am sure you know well as it is, Russia accounts for 9 percent of ploughed land, 52 percent of black earth soil, and 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. These are impressive figures. But at the same time, our share in global agricultural production is much smaller than these figures would suggest. We account for only five percent of milk production, for example, and just two percent of meat production.
But thanks to the efforts made through the Agriculture National Project and the State Agriculture Sector Development Programme, as well as the recent anti-crisis measures, the agriculture sector posted one of the best results among our different economic sectors this year. We have managed to restrain food price increases, and this is without question one of our social obligations.
The main types of foodstuffs are showing steady growth now. Consumption of the basic food groups still falls short, however, of the levels recommended by doctors, and even today’s consumption level, which is certainly higher and better than in the 1990s, say, is still based on imports to a considerable extent.
Provision of the basic food groups in accordance with the recommended consumption levels is not as good in our country as one might imagine with a saturated market and the decent results our agriculture policy has produced so far. Provision of meat and milk falls short by 25 percent, fish by 45 percent, and vegetables by a quarter.
Achieving real change in this situation requires not fragmentary but systemic measures that will see home-grown products form the bulk of our foodstuffs resources. We need to define the quantity and quality criteria for Russia’s food security, forecast the risks and take action to prevent possible threats from outside and inside.
What do we need to do first? First of all, the Government must start monitoring the food security situation in the country as a whole and in the regions, both individually and in comparison with the situation in the main food exporting countries, because taking the crisis into account we agreed on keeping watch on the main macro processes. Guaranteeing food supplies is one of the cornerstones of security in general.
Second, we need to introduce rational food consumption norms that meet modern physiological demands for healthy food. We already have such norms – the norms for school meals that have already been drafted and are now in force. These are modern standards that were only drawn up just recently. The Government needs to have the relevant documents ready by April 1, 2010.
Third, we need to really and truly get to work on the legislative base governing land relations. The current laws, as everyone knows, create fertile soil for numerous violations. The result is uncontrolled and non-rational use of agricultural land. The aim here is clear.
I remind you that the Government was instructed in 2002 to carry out a cadastre valuation of agricultural land. This instruction was never carried out. In October this year I gave instructions to sort out the situation with ineffective owners of agricultural land and analyse the situation with land allotments that were not being used. This work needs to be speeded up and all of the necessary laws in this area must be passed. It is particularly important in this work to take into account aspects such as preserving soil fertility and increasing liability for ruining the land. I therefore propose that basic state land use policies addressing all of these issues be drawn up and introduced according to the established procedures. We have more than 30 million hectares of agricultural land not being used today. 30 million! The total area of cultivated land has shrunk by more than a third over the last decades.
Developing the foodstuffs and processing industry is another serious issue. We worked hard on this during the initial stage of the Agriculture National Project’s implementation, but what has been done is still not enough. To give an example, the lack of primary meat processing facilities means that the majority of meat processing enterprises use mostly imported raw materials, and imported meat’s quality standards are still considerably higher than those of Russian meat. We need to define our strategic priorities for developing the foodstuffs and processing industry and name the specific indicators and instruments that we will use to achieve growth in this sector. This includes examining the possibility of state support for foodstuffs processing enterprises.
Russia will be taking part in the Customs Union starting next year. This opens up new opportunities for our agriculture sector. But as is always the case in such situations it also brings new risks. I am giving the instruction to continue carrying out measures to support Russian agriculture production and exports, and also to support high-value added production using marine biological resources.
Customs tariff regulation and the role of state purchase interventions and collateral operations should be the subjects of particular attention.
I stress the need for cost-cutting. This can be achieved by using advanced technology and introducing modern business technology and management principles. This calls for proposals on encouraging research and developing the use of progressive technology, both Russian and foreign technology. It also requires better training in how to use this technology.
Finally, we all need to play a more active part in the international global partnership on food security. We held a number of important events this year, including the World Grain Forum. This was a useful event attended by a large number of foreign delegations. We need to provide real support and encouragement to those who are using modern technology in agriculture.
Colleagues, guaranteeing food security is vital for our country’s social stability. The social dimension of the Food Security Doctrine we are examining today is obvious to all. Development of rural areas and prosperity for the people living there should be among the most important results obtained through the planned transformations.