In 2020, due to the closure of borders and the introduction of bans on the entry of foreigners, many Russian agricultural enterprises faced an acute shortage of workers. As the beginning of this season showed, over the past time the situation in the industry has only worsened, and we have yet to assess the full scale of the consequences by the end of the summer, when the harvest begins.
According to many farmers, there will be simply nothing to collect.
As the head of the Volga-Agromashimport Volgograd farm Yuri Lemyakin notes, the region's agricultural producers started talking about the problem long before the start of spring work. After the completion of the cleaning, a significant part of the migrants left for their homeland, and the questions: whether they can go back and if they can, when this will happen, remained unanswered. How to buy seeds in such conditions?
- In previous years, about 12 thousand migrants worked in the Volgograd region (and to a greater extent in the three main vegetable-growing regions: Gorodishchensky, Sredneakhtubinsky, Svetloyarsky). Last year, before the introduction of quarantine measures, about 3-3,5 thousand people managed to visit us. The season turned out to be difficult, the costs for each employee, and due to this, the cost of the entire cleaning, has seriously increased. This year, if a thousand people work for us, that's good. And in the summer there will be even fewer: those who cannot or will not have time to extend their work permit until June 15 (in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of December 15, 2020 No. 791) will leave. There will be no one to work.
Vegetable growers turned to all possible authorities and planned to fulfill all the necessary requirements of the authorities. However, they were not ready for some conditions.
“I have been dealing with the paperwork for the entry of migrants for almost 18 years., - says Yuri Lemyakin, - and during this time there has not been a year for the rules of entry to be simplified or at least remain unchanged.
This year, we first submitted applications for two months, collected and provided a variety of data, entered them on the sites. At the same time, some of the requirements were eliminated, since in practice it turned out to be unfeasible.
Then new information came in: only large companies with at least 250 full-time employees and two billion rubles of annual turnover will be able to attract migrants to work. There are simply no farms of this level in our federal district.
Now it became known that migrants can only cross the border by air, the host country pays for the journey, and this is very costly. Out of despair, some agricultural enterprises are recruiting one, two or five workers, but no one brings in people in the required quantities. "
How much will an employee from, say, Uzbekistan cost?
“Officially, a plane ticket costs 37 thousand rubles., - says our expert. - But it does not work to issue it: after filling in the data, a message comes from the site that this person does not have permission to enter. But buying a ticket from an Uzbek intermediary firm - for the same person, the same plane, but for 100 thousand rubles. - takes place in the shortest possible time and without complications.
It costs about 50 thousand rubles to prepare the necessary documents. And these are just direct costs. At the same time, for the first two weeks, a visitor must be under observation, then another three weeks will take to obtain a patent. All this time, the person will need to be fed. Let's add to this the salary, and then the cost of the return trip. "
And that's not all the costs.
«Take, for example, the issue of salary payments, - explains Yuri Lemyakin... - For workers with Russian citizenship, a small farm (where there is often no accountant at all) can pay out a salary in cash according to a statement. And for migrants, funds must be transferred to a bank card. (Under foreign exchange legislation, Russian companies and individual entrepreneurs are recognized as residents, and foreigners who do not have a residence permit are recognized as non-residents.Payment by a resident in favor of a non-resident of any ruble amounts, including salaries, is considered a foreign exchange transaction, settlements for which must be made in a non-cash form - through bank accounts with authorized banks. - ed.)
But opening a card is also a problem: you have to go with an employee (as a rule, who does not speak Russian) to the bank, and before that, translate his passport into Russian ... Those who did not want to take on "extra" troubles, this in the spring we received tax notifications for the last three years at once: fines in the amount of 100% of the amount paid. For some, the amount of "punishment" reaches 20 million rubles. "
This year, many farms in our region, which previously attracted migrants to work, received notice of fines. "
“I do not exclude that a train will run in the summer, tickets for which will cost six thousand rubles each. - adds Yuri. - If this happens, I will take five or seven more people into my household. But in general, this measure will not help the country in any way, it is already too late to do something ”.
Late, because the planting was over, it was not difficult to predict its results: according to Rusprodsoyuz, seed sales on the eve of this season decreased by 50-60% compared to last year, sales of seedlings fell by half.
“The reduction in production for all crops requiring manual labor (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, watermelons, zucchini) is very significant, - confirms Yuri Lemyakin. - Because at that moment, when the seedlings had to be planted in greenhouses, it was completely unclear what to expect ahead. People decided that they would rather cut costs so that later they would not get losses by leaving the crop in the field. ".
What should the country prepare for in the end? Ahead are the growth of prices for vegetables, growth of imports, big problems for processing enterprises.
“In one of the neighboring farms this season they planted 20 hectares of tomatoes instead of the traditional 160. The cannery has already bought their harvest at 80 rubles / kg. This is despite the fact that earlier the price of better quality products did not exceed 20 rubles / kg, and the standard was sold at 10 rubles / kg "- Yuri Lemyakin continues.
It is interesting to note that despite the forecasts for price increases, the majority of Russians (at least those who actively express their opinions online and participate in Internet surveys) do not support the idea of the return of migrants. The most popular point of view on the forums: agricultural producers must pay good salaries, and then the indigenous people of the country will come to work for them.
“Our farm now employs nine people, - Yuri Lemyakin comments. - Four of them are local residents. We could have taken more, but the enterprise is located only 10 km from Volgograd, and many prefer to work in the city, although we offer good salaries - on average, about 50 thousand rubles. Migrants receive 35-40 thousand each, but the enterprise also bears the costs of their food and accommodation (taking this into account, the amounts practically do not differ). It makes no difference for us who will work, but it is very difficult to find those willing to do manual labor in the field. Besides, for many people the problem with alcohol is actual. "
Another possible way to solve the problem is to mechanize and automate most of the operations. Today, many media outlets write that the lack of cheap labor force will force all Russian farmers to keep pace with progress, and this will give a serious impetus to the development of the industry.
“We grow onions, - says the director of Volga-Agromashimport LLC, - This culture, like potatoes, carrots, beets, allows replacing manual labor with machine ones, and the main work processes have been automated for a long time. The necessary equipment was purchased long before the history of the closure of borders, simply because its implementation allows you to reduce costs and reduce production costs. It's profitable.
And now, for example, we are working on the automation of the drip irrigation system so that irrigation and fertilization take place on the instructions of a computer, without the influence of the human factor. But I don’t think many will follow the same path.
In most farms in the Volgograd Region, a very large part of the work is done manually, and this despite the fact that, for example, manual harvesting adds about the same amount to the cost of a kilogram of onions (4 rubles, if only the costs of seeds and cultivation are taken into account). And the average selling price has remained at the level of 11 rubles / kg for many years. But to cut down on manual labor, you need to invest in equipment. Not everyone has such an opportunity.
The income of the farms is constantly decreasing (which is not surprising: 90% of seeds of foreign selection are purchased in euros, fertilizers are sold in dollars). In 2013, the costs of our farm for harvesting were 180 thousand rubles / ha, last year - 380 thousand rubles / ha.
And although farmers manage to live well, create conditions for others and pay excellent salaries to their workers, they have no money left to develop enterprises.
It is difficult to obtain a preferential loan at 5% per annum, but many no longer want to take on debt obligations even on such conditions, because it is very difficult to predict what problems they will face. This year, for example, since March 20, our retail chains have closed cards for onions, carrots and potatoes of Russian production, citing the fact that there is no quality product in the region. In fact, this decision was a consequence of attempts to regulate prices in the market. Farmers were unable to sell their products, suffered heavy losses, and those who were able to preserve the goods until mid-spring, that is, invested in long-term storage, suffered. As a result, this year 4 thousand hectares of onions were planted in our region instead of the usual 7 thousand hectares. Onions are the most expensive crop to produce. Those who lost money on onions last season opted for cheaper carrots and beets. It is possible that this will lead to overproduction for these crops, and again no one will earn anything. "
Where is the way out?
“We will sow anyway, - Yuri Lemyakin does not lose optimism, - because we can’t do anything else. But we must understand that in order for the country to have a lot of vegetables and fruits, farmers should at least not interfere with their work, not create artificial obstacles. We can handle the rest. "
For your information:
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for January-April 2021, the number of work patents issued for foreign citizens and stateless persons in Russia has decreased by 36% since the beginning of the year compared to the same period last year.
Also, the number of valid patents at the end of the reporting period decreased by almost 40%, and the number of valid work permits for foreigners decreased by a third.