In the first nine months of this year, Russia exported 254,8 thousand tons of potatoes (food and seed), which is almost 36% more than in the same period last year, said Roman Nekrasov, director of the crop production department of the Ministry of Agriculture. In monetary terms, exports increased by 38,7% (to $ 30,3 million, in 2015 the amount was half that).
According to Nekrasov, the main buyers of our seed potatoes are Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkmenistan, and Belarus. And table potatoes are in demand in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan.
However, while the import of potatoes is declining, it still exceeds export. For the nine months of 2020, 293,4 thousand tons were imported to Russia (last year - 298,3 thousand tons). At the same time, potatoes were supplied to a greater extent in the off-season, in March-June. Therefore, it is necessary to develop capacities for storing potatoes in Russia. So far, they are enough to store 4,5 million tons of products per year. According to Roman Nekrasov, by 2025 the country will produce 7,575 million tons of potatoes, and thus we will reach the target of self-sufficiency (at least 95%). According to Nekrasov, Russia has every chance of joining the top three potato producers. In 2020, according to forecasts of the Ministry of Agriculture, 7,55 million tons will be collected in Russia (7,565 million tons last year).
In fact, Russia has long been one of the three leaders in potato production, says Aleksey Krasilnikov, executive director of the Potato Union. In the course of two agricultural censuses (2006 and 2016), 9 million tons in the first and 8 million tons in the second “fell out” due to private household plots. Thus, the figures fell from 35 to 22,2 million tons. And Ukraine was ahead with 22,4 million tons of potatoes. It formally ranks third after China (90-105 million tons) and India (45-50 million tons).
According to the expert, Russia still has weak positions in export. Since 2014, the export of potatoes has grown fivefold, primarily due to the Donbass, where we annually supply up to 120 thousand tons. At the same time, last season, against the background of drought in Ukraine, our potatoes went not only to Donbass, but also to the central part of the country. Thus, about 250 thousand tons of Russian potatoes were delivered there, which also went to Ukraine through Belarus. However, last week, against the backdrop of a decent harvest this year, the Ukrainian Cabinet considered the issue of closing the import of Russian potatoes. Therefore, this supply chain may, at a minimum, shrink.
Traditionally, Azerbaijan takes the first position in terms of export (about 50 thousand tons). And the volumes of supplies are increasing. They supply us with early potatoes, we supply them with seed and table ones. We are increasing the volume of supplies to Central Asia: a significant amount goes to Uzbekistan, also in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan there are intentions to increase the production of their potatoes and, therefore, there will be a request for the supply of our seed potatoes. In addition, against the background of two droughts in Europe, our potatoes went there for processing, in particular fries, supplies went to Serbia and Montenegro.
But Aleksey Krasilnikov considers the most promising direction to be the supply of products with high added value - chips, potato flour and flakes. The geography of supplies here can be very wide - from China to Latin America.
European statistics say that every second ton is processed, while in Belgium, for example, 85%, the expert notes. Today (excluding households), the commodity sector produces 7-7,5 million tons: 1 million tons remain for seeds for the next season, about 1,5 million tons will go for processing this season. And this, of course, is not enough, says Krasilnikov.
“If there is a separate state program to support processing in the potato sector, it would be great. Because today the investment costs, primarily for equipment, for such projects are quite large. But the bar must be set in order to double the processing and bring it at least to the European level, ”the expert said.