By the time the last issue of the magazine was published (May 2019), potato planting in Russia was still actively continuing, and the Ministry agriculture of the Russian Federation predicted that under the potato 320 thousand ha will be allocated in the industrial sector of the country - that is, 15 thousand hectares more than in 2018.
Alexey Krasilnikov, Executive Director of the Potato Union of Russia
By the end of June, agricultural organizations and peasant farms completed work at the level of 302,2 thousand hectares, reducing the area (in comparison with the data for the previous year) by 1,7%. And this result can be considered natural. The main reason for the decline in interest in culture is the low level of profitability of production, which has been observed over the past years. In addition, modern approaches to the power supply system cannot be ignored. In early August, Rosstat published data according to which over the past 30 years in Russia, the consumption of potatoes per capita has practically halved - from 117 to 59 kg per year.
Cleaning this year started a little earlier than usual (one to two weeks depending on the region). But by the third decade of August, work in the fields is still only gaining momentum. Weather conditions change daily, respectively, in some regions the process is accelerating, while in others it slows down, so the operational data of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation give a contradictory picture: on some days the harvesting rate of this year is higher than last year, on others it is vice versa. At this stage, only yield indicators show relative constancy: while they are below the corresponding results of 2018.
As of August 21, it can be stated that potatoes in agricultural enterprises and peasant (farm) farms were dug up from an area of 27,2 thousand hectares or 9% of the planting area (in 2018 - 20,8 thousand hectares), 680,6 thousand tons (in 2018 - 537,6 thousand tons) with a yield of 249,9 c / ha (in 2018 - 257,8 c / ha).
In general, if we analyze all incoming data on harvesting from different regions, we can say that the harvest in the country is good both in quality and quantity. But a lot, of course, will depend on the harvest - on the conditions in which it will take place. So far, they cannot be called optimal. It rained in a number of central regions, which, on the one hand, can have a positive effect on late varieties of potatoes in terms of adding marketable mass, but at the same time it is highly likely that additional treatments with plant protection products will be required. A very difficult situation is developing in the Middle and Southern Volga regions. In the Volgograd and Samara regions, daytime temperatures reach + 40 ° С, which means that the temperature on the soil will be at + 50-60 ° С. It is impossible to harvest potatoes in such conditions, counting on long-term storage.
As a rule, every year the second or third week of August becomes the period of the maximum drop in prices for potatoes. Farms sell products of low quality from the fields at bargain prices, which are not suitable for long-term storage.
According to operational monitoring, the price of table potatoes in different regions of Russia now (on August 20 - from the ed.) Ranges from 8 to 12 rubles / kg, and these penny-kopek figures coincide with the prices of the same period in 2018. This suggests that the market situation is developing according to last year’s scenario.
EXTERNAL PROBLEMS AND THE DOMESTIC MARKET
This season is characterized by a sharp decrease in the volume of potato harvest and, accordingly, a noticeable increase in prices for the product in Ukraine. These facts are alarming to the population of the country, worried by the government, but for Ukrainian potato growers they can have a positive meaning: agricultural producers will make a profit, the industry may attract additional investments. But to say that the potato crisis in a neighboring state will somehow seriously affect the Russian market in the current circumstances is not necessary. Although an indirect intersection of interests is still possible. In mid-August, the Republic of Belarus began deliveries of potatoes to Ukraine, so we can assume that Belarusian products this year will compete to a lesser extent with Russian ones.
We also receive information about the drought in Europe. This year, it affected Germany to a greater extent (from among the countries specializing in the cultivation of seed and table potatoes). According to media reports, if in 2018 German potato growers harvested the lowest crop yield of 28 million tons in 8,7 years, then this season it may fall to eight, and possibly to 7,5 million tons.
Objectively assessing the state of affairs, we can say that last year the European drought affected our potato growers to a certain extent: prices for seed potatoes of individual companies increased, and some shipments were not realized. Although, given that our country imported only seven thousand tons of seed potatoes in a year, the degree of influence should not be exaggerated. The reduction in the supply of early potatoes from Egypt turned out to be much more noticeable for the industry (most of the product contributed to the elimination of the deficit in Europe). True, this reduction did not lead to an increase in demand for the domestic product, or to an increase in prices for it. Nevertheless, we expect that this season the main flow of Egyptian potatoes will also pass by the Russian market, there are prerequisites for this.
If we return to domestic pain points, then first of all it is worth discussing the situation in the regions of Siberia and the Far East affected by fires and floods. Harvest in these territories died, the population needs supplies of vegetables and potatoes. The flow of agricultural products of Central Russia could be directed here, but so far the adoption of such a decision remains in question. Recall that several years ago a state of emergency was already introduced in the Far East, but then, given the whole complex of circumstances (difficult weather conditions, high tariffs for delivery of goods, lack of wagons of the required format from Russian Railways), the regional government preferred to buy potatoes in China.
This year, Russia tightened the rules for transporting fruits and vegetables across the border. It is possible that now it will not be possible to solve the problem in a proven way. But even organizing deliveries across all of Russia will require very serious efforts.
In this direction, in 2019, we note positive shifts. The plant for the production of French fries in Lipetsk begins to work in full force. Moreover, at the All-Russian Day of the Potato Field, held in Vladikavkaz, the representatives of the enterprise told that at the moment the management is considering the issue of building the second line of the plant. Now the company's products are supplied throughout Russia and abroad. And according to Rosstat, the volume of imports of french fries to our country over the past year has more than halved. The opening of new processing plants is also expected.
The situation in the future, I think, will be characterized by a further reduction in imports of French fries, an increase in the scale of processing and an increase in the export potential of processed products. And for agricultural producers - an increase in demand for raw materials suitable for the production of fries and chips. Unfortunately, these are mainly imported varieties. We have to admit that at the moment Russia remains dependent on imported selection and seeds for the direction of varieties for processing, and the country will not be able to get rid of it for a long time.
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES IN SEED PRODUCTION
Unfortunately, the quality of potatoes used by Russian farms for planting remains rather low from year to year. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, of the total volume of seed material (800-900 thousand tons), 33% is non-varietal material. Only 14% is certified by the Russian Agricultural Center. The seed market in the country remains gray, which affects the volume and quality of the harvest.
To a certain extent, the Federal State Information System in the field of seed production of agricultural plants (FSIS "Semyonovodstvo"), developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, is called upon to correct this situation.
Using it, market participants will be able to instantly (including via telephone) receive all the necessary information about the quality of each batch of seeds. In August, the second stage of the formation of the system is completed: specialists in test mode began to upload data on certificates issued by the Rosselkhoztsentr and Rosselkhoznadzor.
Since the beginning of 2020, it should earn in full force.
The main difficulty that impedes the effective operation of the system at the moment is the incomplete mechanism that obliges agricultural enterprises to transmit complete and comprehensive information about incoming or sold lots of seed potatoes. But, I think, in the near future it will be decided that all types of support (including subsidies, soft loans, etc.) will be available only to those agricultural producers who connect to this system.