USA: Two people were killed and another injured in a shooting outside a church in Alabama

USA: Two people were killed and another injured in a shooting outside a church in Alabama

Khatmanovo: With its vast and fertile lands in the south, Russia is one of the world’s leading grain powers. But since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine and the rains of Western sanctions, farmers have been forced to retreat to the local market.

In the village of Khotmanovo, 170 kilometers south of Moscow, on the banks of the Oka River, Chiorny Khleb (“black bread”) is one of the small farms that has spread in Russia over the past decade.

The path is clear, explains co-owner of this organic farm, Evgueni Chifanov, 42: “We are moving more towards our internal market, towards our economy.”

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in which two agricultural superpowers are involved and which supplied 30% of world wheat exports, has caused soaring prices for grain and fertilizer, destabilizing global food security.

Russia appears to be in a powerful position against grain: the world’s largest wheat exporter, Moscow has made the Ukrainian grain ban a key element of the negotiations.

But the Russian agricultural sector is also at risk.

In Churny Klip, which grows various types of grain on an area of ​​just over 1000 hectares, green wheat is still knee-high, and we enjoy the calm before the intense activity of the harvest, which begins at the end of July.

“In March or April, we start preparing the land, then we plant. And there, we are about to reap the results of our work,” explains Alexey Ershov, a 28-year-old tractor driver, before getting on his red and black machine and setting off once Others in the buckwheat field.

logistical problems

While the outlook for the season is good — the USDA expects a harvest of 130 million tons, including 87 million tons of wheat — farmers have had turbulent months since the sanctions began.

“We are experiencing logistical disruptions. This is a problem, because we have partners both in Europe (especially in Lithuania) and in Israel,” said Evgeniy Zhivanov, co-owner of the trucks, explaining that the trucks remain closed at the borders.

“We can’t offer it, we can’t help but be satisfied with our domestic market. We are actively working to find partners in Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan,” he adds, listing countries that have remained close to Moscow.

Nevertheless, he says he is optimistic, once the panic period of the first weeks passed: the small farm then succumbed to the fear of being left unwrapped and bought a year’s stock at once, which is now gathering dust.

Other small hassles pile up. One of their partners is running out of glue to make the labels: “It was imported from Europe. They are trying to solve the problem via China but the logistics are still complicated,” explains Mr. Chevanov, standing in a shed among heaps of wheat.

In an adjacent building, Miller Roman Tikhonov, 40, works around an Austrian-made wood mill.

“Recently, a break occurred, we found the material and fixed it. Before the spare parts arrived from Austria, we waited a long time, and now we make them ourselves, and this is faster,” he notes curtly.

The neighboring Ukrainian mill has been receiving its spare parts via Belarus since 2014 and the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

However, the co-owner says he is relieved that his tractors are mainly Russian or Belarusian, which saves him a headache.

‘Destroyed Margins’

The situation in the grain market has also changed. Before the conflict began, the price of wheat was already high (about 300 euros per ton) but now it is just under 400 euros. Russia has continued to sell it since the beginning of hostilities, in short supply due to the default of Ukraine, and despite the difficulties of navigation.

According to Andrei Sizov, managing director of agricultural consultancy SovEcon, Russian grain is now selling at about $20 a ton below the market price, a phenomenon also observed for Russian oil.

“Everything is reflected in the price. Russian grain has become cheaper, for example, than French grain, because it is necessary (for the buyer) to include in the price additional costs for shipping, insurance and payment problems.”

If prices remain high and mitigate the fiscal impact on Russia, “Russian farmers will not benefit, due to the extremely high export taxes imposed in 2021 in the false hope of curbing food inflation.”

This is despite their “average costs being 20-30% higher in rubles” than last year, notes Mr. Sizov, adding that Russian farmers are seeing “their margins destroyed.”

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