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Russia softens GMO import restrictions on soybeans

Russian Agricultural Ministry will not seek for a return to enhanced control over genetically modified soybeans imported in to the country to produce feed.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has exempted GM soybeans and soybean meal from compulsory government registration in a decree released on April 16 of 2020. Almost immediately governors of Kaliningrad Oblast, Belgorod Oblast and several Russian regions appealed to the federal government asking them not to soften the GMO import restrictions.

It is believed that the compulsory registration was almost an impassable barrier for GM soybeans, so during the previous years they were technically not allowed in Russia. Photo: Hans Prinsen
It is believed that the compulsory registration was almost an impassable barrier for GM soybeans, so during the previous years they were technically not allowed in Russia. Photo: Hans Prinsen

It is believed that the compulsory registration was almost an impassable barrier for GM soybeans, so during the previous years they were technically not allowed in Russia.

The governors said that the decision to remove that barrier would pave the way for some big US corporations controlling soybean production in Latin America and Europe in to the Russian feed market, the Russian Business Consulting (RBC) agency reported, citing the letter the governors filled jointly filled with the Agricultural Ministry.

The oversupply of soybean products on the global market could push those companies towards dumping in Russia, resulting in soybean producers in Russia being jeopardised and this would negatively affect the national food security in the country, the governors warned.

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The governors also raised concerns that the impact GM products bring on the human’s health is still not clear enough. Some scientists believe GM products could hamper the immunity, the governors said, reminding that the Russian citizens for some unknown reasons proved to be less susceptible to Covid-19 than the citizens of European countries, where GMOs are widespread.

The governors apparently refer to the abnormally low coronavirus mortality rate. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova has recently announced that Covid-19’s lethality in Russia is by a factor of 7.4 times below the global average.

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New rules stay in place

The proposal of the governors to return the compulsory registration of GM soybean products is likely to stay in place, since it was not supported by the Agricultural Ministry. Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselhoznadzor will conduct inspections of the imported GM soybeans to make sure all the incoming products are safe, the Ministry told RBC.

The new rules should support Russian livestock producers and not allow the increase in production costs, commented Sergey Mikhnyuk, executive director of the Russian National Feed Union. The increase in import supplies could lower the prices on the market, but this could indeed bring certain risks to Russia soybean producers, for example in Amur Oblast and Kursk Oblast, Mikhnyuk said.

Russia harvested 4.26 million tonnes of soybeans in 2019. The Russian Agricultural Ministry is planning to raise this figure to 5.6 million tonnes by 2022. Russia is also processing around 5 million tonnes of soybeans per year, of which 2 million tonnes are imported, according to the Russian fat and oil union.