ISSN 2330-717X

Eastern Economic Forum Prioritizes Discussions On Agricultural Development In The Far East – OpEd

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Russia has been showing serious concern about the development of its Far East region. It is a huge underdeveloped region and despite the harsh climate conditions, the Russian government consistently expresses the desire to turn it into agricultural field and is determined to support both local and foreign investors interested in developing agriculture.

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The 7th Eastern Economic Forum, which organizers expect visitors from over 60 countries and scheduled in Vladivostok on September 5-8, prioritizes the region’s agriculture for further exhaustive discussions based on the previous sessions. With the support of the Ministry of Development of the Russian Far East, the panelists will again review the recognition given to and significance of the sector especially large-scale production for internal consumption and for exports to foreign countries.

The session on agriculture has interconnection with the future of certain industries such as the efficient development of the industrial sector, food security, the climate and environmental issues, and of course the development of domestic and inbound tourism. In relation to the construction sector as well as many others, the panelists’ might further focus talk about the lives (including feeding) of indigenous peoples in the Far East.

It brings to the fore the significant question of agricultural self-sufficiency in the Russian Far East in today’s realities. The prerequisites for increasing production of all types of products exist, including the potential for putting agricultural land into maximum utilization and review the raw material base for processing, which is the basis for the sustainable development of grains, dairy and cattle breeding as well as poultry farming.

Our discussions with experts show that the natural and climatic conditions of this region allows to produce almost all types of crops and agricultural products generally. Agricultural experts say mechanizing production and planning within the dictates of the climate and natural conditions, there is possibility of meeting agricultural production targets. For this, only state support is needed.

On the other hand, experts here believe that given the fundamental transformation of the geopolitical and economic landscape, the Russian economy is facing an unprecedented task in its complexity and scale – to create a fundamentally new economic development model for the country aimed at achieving its technological sovereignty, reducing dependence on imports of critical foreign products, restoring and reformatting value chains in key sectors of the national economy.

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Some suggested that there are various ways to build an effective incentive system for large-scale import substitution and the ways to achieve integration between fundamental science of agriculture and the related sectors of the economy. Russia has significant resource, technical and scientific potential, but one other surest way is attracting private investment in the development of this remote Far East region of Russia.

At present, Russia has all the necessary prerequisites in place for the transition to a new bottom-up phase. Obviously, it is not possible to achieve this goal from the state budget alone; the Russian business community must be actively involved in this process. Overcoming imbalances in the development of remote territories – Siberia, the Arctic, and the Far East – and creating new enclaves of integrated economic development are essential to achieving sustainable economic growth.

Therefore, participants in the sessions of the forthcoming forum will determine whether the existing support measures for the industry allow for a multiple increase in production volumes, identify priority areas of the industry for each region of the Far Eastern Federal District, and discuss how to ensure the transfer of products between regions of the district and bring unused land into use at an accelerated rate. Special attention will be paid during the session to support measures to increase the level of agricultural self-sufficiency of the Far East.

The are obvious problems to overcome. Agricultural facilities are very costly undertaking. For investment projects related to processing, it is crucial that feedstock is better protected, it has shown that existing 20% currently available is insufficient in the region. The development of infrastructure is probably the most critical element in terms of enabling the agricultural sector to fully capitalize on the potential afforded by its climate and increase production.

The key issue is investment – long term investment in storage facilities and logistics. We need 10 to 15-year investments, and Sber bank is in a position to offer these. This is also vital for unlocking export potential, according to Vladimir Sitnov, Senior Vice President of Sberbank. These are investments related to processing, including the processing of products which are in demand in key markets. A crucial element which is still not being properly discussed – although the ministry is already giving thought to it – is putting logistics in place in target sales markets. 

Last year, the Asia-Pacific region imported food and agricultural products worth a total of almost $700 billion. That in effect represents 45% of global imports. It can be difficult for producers of goods in the Far East to find new sales channels in the Asia-Pacific region. But the outlook is that it sets out a great many measures and its agricultural sector can capitalize on in the Far East.

“We can see a fundamental approach for the Far East’s agricultural industry to substantially increase both production volumes and added value. By this we can capitalize on exports to the Asia-Pacific region. The potential in this area will bring about an increase in agricultural production that will be measured not as a percentage, but as a multi-fold increase,” stressed Sergey Levin, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation.

President Vladimir Putin, in an early September message to participants, expressed Russia ‘s readiness to continue, along with all interested partners especially those from the Asia-Pacific countries, to make efforts to improve regional cooperation and in various sectors in the Far East. 

The Far East is sparsely populated and government’s efforts to repopulate this region has been unsuccessful till now. Far back in 2016, a programme was approved which hoped to resettle at least 500,000 Ukrainians in the Far East. This included giving free land to attract voluntary immigrants from Ukraine and the settlement of refugees from East Ukraine. 

The region’s 6.3 million people translates to slightly less than one person per square kilometer, making the Russia’s Far East one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. According to geographical records, by description and depending on the context, it has over one-third of total land area and located in the easternmost part of Russia.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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