Meeting on agriculture and food industry 2020-05-20 15:45:00 Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region Vladimir Putin held a meeting, via videoconference, on the situation in agriculture and food industry. The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko, Aide to the President Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture – Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery Ilya Shestakov, Head of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) Sergei Dankvert, heads of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, Russian Railways, Federal Corporation for Developing Small and Medium Business (SME Corporation), Chamber of Commerce and Industry, heads of the Republic of Crimea, Udmurtia, Altai Territory, Kamchatka Territory, Astrakhan, Kursk and Rostov regions, heads of major associations as well as organisations in the field of agriculture. * * * President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon, We continue the series of meetings concerning the basic, supporting sectors of the Russian economy. Today, I propose discussing, with the heads of companies and business associations, the challenges facing the agricultural sector, as well as related sectors that are closely tied to agriculture. I am referring to agricultural machinery, food industry equipment, fertiliser production, and a number of other industries. I already mentioned that in recent years, and everyone is aware of this, Russia’s agro-industrial sector has been showing fast and proactive growth and it has been consolidating its positions as a modern, high-tech industry with good potential for qualitative growth. Grain harvests in Russia have exceeded 100 million tonnes for six years in a row and this year we also have a good outlook. Today we’ll probably talk more about this. Russia fully provides itself with the basic foodstuffs, is consistently exploring global markets, and is one of the leading exporters of a number of goods. I would like to use the opportunity to thank our farmers, the workers of agricultural companies for their hard work and its results that are so important for the country. Against the backdrop of challenges facing the Russian and global economy, it is crucial that we keep up the dynamics attained in our agricultural sector and our farmers’ belief that they will be able to continue working sustainably and to preserve their cooperation ties. We must ensure reliable supplies to the domestic market and assess the opportunities our companies now have, including the opportunity to export their produce. Experts believe that agriculture and the food industry have not been affected by the restrictions due to the coronavirus epidemic as seriously as other industries, although their incomes can indeed decrease and spending can increase. It is especially important at the height of the spring sowing campaign to support our farmers and to ensure stable functioning of our companies so that they have the funds to buy fuel, fertiliser, to purchase and process raw materials. The [Agriculture] Minister reported on the developments in this sector before, but I suggest that we discuss this matter once again. Of course, we must not overlook the matter of remuneration either. I would like to point out that we are talking here not only about large farms and agricultural holdings, but primarily about small enterprises and family farms. They feel any change on the market especially acutely. We will be talking about this as well. Of course, while discussing the current issues in this sector or any other industry, we must not forget about our strategic objectives. We must improve the competitiveness of Russian agricultural produce so that the demand for our products and foodstuffs grows on the domestic market and abroad. This is an important or even the key parameter, which we must take into account when developing our agricultural, industrial, education and science policies, a system of supporting and encouraging exports, developing high-level processing of agricultural raw materials. Russian companies have achieved impressive results in the production of meat, especially poultry and pork, vegetable oils and sugar, granulated sugar. I have already said that, over the past 10–20 years, the output of these items has grown significantly. We must look to the future now, to develop such areas as horticulture, viticulture, and beef and dairy production. It is important to fully employ the capabilities of the industry science, to focus their research on the needs of real production as much as possible, so that Russian projects in breeding, genetics, and biotechnology serve to boost the output of safe, high-quality products. First of all, we are talking about import substitution of seeds and feed additives. I know that there have been difficulties in the last few months, but I hope they have been overcome. It is equally important to grow pedigree cattle and manufacture veterinary drugs. I want to emphasise – it is not just an applied task for science and business, but also a key condition, the key to food security and independence of our country. Furthermore, the development of the agricultural sector is not just about achieving high production levels, but also about creating more jobs, increasing incomes and improving the quality of life for millions of people. We also need to move swiftly in the development of infrastructure and social services in rural areas, including healthcare, education and culture, as well as in addressing people’s housing problems. We need modern, safe roads and utility networks and, of course, the development of digital infrastructure, which both citizens and businesses need. I invite representatives of the regions and industry leaders to report on all these topics. Let us move on to discussing all of the proposed issues. <…> Vladimir Putin: This number was already mentioned today: $25.5 billion worth of our agricultural products were exported last year. This is incredible compared to previous years. Ten or fifteen years ago no one ago could have even imagined this would be possible. I myself compare this to arms and special-purpose equipment exports which are worth $15 billion. This is an absolutely tremendous number, which makes us the world’s second largest arms exporter. However, first of all, our exports were down by 1 percent last year. I know the reason, this was due to objective reasons. However, the volume of agricultural imports remained unchanged at $30 billion. We don’t even buy that many weapons. What I am saying is that we have something to work on. This is an integrated measure of where we are and what we are capable of. We still need to discuss this subject rather a lot. We know how much farm land we have. Indeed much of it is in the risky farming zone, we understand this all too well, but still this land represents a major Russian asset. I think you will agree with me here. There are things to work on, and this is our major competitive advantage, which we must take the opportunity to use. Today, I would like to thank all of you for the substantive discussion and your specific proposals. I am confident that our colleagues from the Government and the regions – we have many governors joining us online today – will carefully review and work through these proposals. Here is how I would like to sum things up and also to identify priority tasks. Sales are critical for business which was mentioned many times today by the heads of industry unions and farms. The problem is common, and the state must, of course, lend a helping hand to our producers. We are primarily talking about lucrative and reliable supply chains. It is imperative to help the delivery of goods to the consumers, as they say, from the field to the counter. We recently discussed the situation in Russia’s transport sector and opportunities to redirect freight traffic based on the general economic situation and considering the change in customers’ needs. Let me recall that we agreed to support container traffic, including by railway. I would like to ask the Government and Russian Railways – Mr Belozerov is here with us – to prepare, in cooperation with Russian meat and vegetable producers, proposals on how to efficiently transport these goods from central Russia and Siberia to the Far East. In turn, as was also brought up, to deliver Far Eastern fish products, it is necessary to make broader use of the Northern Sea Route, and I agree with this. This will reduce the costs of transporting fish products, including to the European part of Russia and, thus, make fish more affordable for our people. I would like to ask the Ministry of Transport, Rosatom and other related agencies to study this issue. We heard a proposal to create a working group. This is fine, it is possible to set up a working group, but it is necessary to arrive at a common decision. I would like to note that building up the potential of the Northern Sea Route and using it more as a domestic transport corridor is becoming more important, including the goal of developing the port infrastructure of the Far East and Russia’s northwest, including the Murmansk transport hub. I would like to ask you to monitor this work. I would also like to mention the marketing of farm products. My colleagues talked about this today. Let me repeat that it is certainly necessary to support business initiatives in rural areas, industrious and enterprising people who know how to work the ground and love it, and who create new jobs. Apparently, as we have said over the years, it is difficult for them to access retail systems, and they do not have enough resources to set up their own marketplaces to sell their products. They simply lack the funds for this – even without such expenses every ruble counts. I would like to ask the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture to come up with additional proposals on expanding the marketing of products from farms and agricultural co-ops. It has just been mentioned here that such aid is being offered. But this is not enough for our producers. I am addressing the regional governors: farmers rely on your support, also in terms of organising temporary retail facilities. You said you are doing this but it’s not enough. There must be more fairs and other marketplaces where they can go and sell their produce and not just somewhere on the outskirts but in places that are convenient both for customers and vendors. Next, I consider it necessary to take additional measures to support the modernisation of our farms, to supply them with modern equipment. I would like to remind you that we have approved subsidies for the purchase of Russian-made agricultural machinery, goods, combine harvesters and processing equipment, as we were told today. There are easy-term leases for specialised equipment, for example, for land reclamation, something that was also mentioned today. Overall, we plan to allocate 14 billion rubles for these purposes this year. I agree with the proposal to increase this support, for example, by 4.5 billion rubles to begin with, so that our farmers have additional resources for development and our equipment manufacturers receive new contracts. In this connection I would like to say a few words about the leasing of agricultural equipment. As mentioned earlier, starting in April, Rosagroleasing approved special preferential terms for this instrument – with a lower interest rate and deferred payments. To encourage technical equipment upgrades at our farms, I suggest, or rather I support the proposal to increase the capital of Rosagroleasing. I believe somebody mentioned 6 billion rubles. Let’s approve this, so the company can lease an additional 1,500 machines to our farmers. One more thing: we have approved several instruments, including special investment contracts and competitiveness enhancement programmes, to support Russian agricultural machinery, equipment and fertiliser manufacturers. This issue was discussed today. I understand that the investment plans for our machinery, fertiliser and other industrial manufacturers could be adjusted in this situation for reasons beyond their control, such as problems in the operations of raw material suppliers or contractors. This was an especially big problem in the first quarter. So, I agree that the implementation of our businesses’ investment obligations under special investment contracts and competitiveness enhancement programmes can be postponed. The terms of this decision should be further discussed. I would like to ask the Government to do this together with the industry-specific associations and regional authorities. In conclusion I would like to say the following. All of our decisions to support and maintain stable and dynamic development in agriculture must be as much to the point as possible, as well as effective. The funds we allocate must be quickly transferred to businesses without delay, so that they produce the desired results. I am asking my colleagues to take an extremely responsible attitude. I wish everyone success and all the best and want to thank you for this meeting.