Even a temporary shortage of workers during the current harvest and the next sowing campaign endangers production plans of Russian grain producers, while small-scale businesses could be put on the brink of bankruptcy, Russian magazine Agroinvestor said, citing market participants.
On September 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the country’s first mobilisation since the second world war. The Russian Defence Ministry said it planned to call up 300,000 men, though several Russian independent media claimed this figure could be substantially higher.
Several Russian agricultural unions have appealed to the government, asking for a deferment from conscription to dairy farmers to ensure uninterrupted milk industry operation. Agroinvestor reported that the Russian Agricultural Ministry tried convincing the Russian government to avoid calling up workers from Russian farms, though with no success so far.
The conscription practices in agriculture vary across the Russian region. In some territories, local governors realise the importance of the uninterrupted operation of the industry and try to help farmers. Others see beating mobilisation targets as their main priority, Agroinvestor reported.
“Harvesting campaign continues throughout Russia, and it is critical for us not to lose even 5% of personnel,” Andrey Gradkovsky, managing director of the GrainRus Agro, said. “Under our assessment, 30% of our workers fall under the first mobilisation wave, though a lot of things remain unclear since the regions of our presence see rules in a different way.”
The Russian grain industry has been experiencing a labour shortage in the past few years. There are fears that the mobilisation could exaggerate this problem, especially since most conscripts are reportedly collected from rural areas.
“I don’t understand how to end the season if everyone who is potentially suitable is called up. These involve machine operators and dryer operators, and all the crops that are now underway must be dried. When ten people work around the clock, seven days a week, we can’t lose a single one,” Gradkovsky said.
Kristina Romanovskaya, general director of the cattle farm Lazarevskoe, said that in the first 2 days of mobilisation, 11 employees received the mobilisation notices. Romanovskaya said that things are complicated, but the government seem to understand that the problem with personnel in agriculture is already the most acute in comparison with other sectors of the Russian economy.
“In the current situation, we need to [figure out how to] live in such a regime for the time being. This is a task that needs to be solved,” she added.