Lack of imported seeds jeopardise Russian grain production in 2023

01-03-2023 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Several major seed suppliers are trying to influence the Russian food market and create “an artificial hype” for their products, the Russian National Seed Alliance (NSA) said in an appeal to the Russian government.

Russian farms complain that a group of foreign suppliers of sunflower seeds, including Syngenta, Bayer and Nusid Ru, refuse to fulfil their obligations under contracts with Russian customers, accusing Russian federal authorities of imposing barriers for free trade.

NSA, however, is confident that these actions are nothing but a “provocation with economic and political colours.”

Igor Lobach, chairman of NSA, commented: “The fact that foreign companies are now disrupting the supply of seeds on the eve of the sowing season is an attempt to influence the Russian authorities through farmers and an attempt to cause an artificial hype in order to further raise prices for their products.”

Import restrictions

The Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselhoznadzor banned the import of Syngenta sunflower seeds to Russia from February 1 after a routine inspection discovered sunflower Phomopsis in some samples of the delivered products.

Dmitry Rylko, general director of the Russian institute of Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR), said that the ban should not impact the Russian market since, in general, the import of seeds from the US was rather small. He added that in the wake of Western sanctions, only one foreign seed supplier pulled out from the Russian market, and no problems with seeds in Russia were seen.

Chasing self-sufficiency

NSA called on the authorities to enhance import-replacement efforts in order to protect the Russian grain industry from turmoil in the future.

“In recent years, the Agricultural Ministry has done tremendous work to prepare agriculture for import substitution, despite the attempts of foreign seed producers to dictate their terms. And the Russian seed industry is ready to completely replace foreign selection within two years,” NSA said, adding that some factors still constrain import substitution, including a lack of awareness among Russian farmers about domestic alternatives of foreign seeds.

A plea for state support

With additional state aid, Russian farmers could see the share of domestic seeds in sunflower production reaching 35% in 2023, compared to 25% in the previous year. In 2024, this figure is projected to climb to 50%.

Russian seeds manufacturers have been urging the Agricultural Ministry to limit imports during the past year. However, the Russian Grain Union, the Potato Union, the association of planting material producers and several other business unions in 2022 sent an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning about the damage Russian agriculture could suffer if the restrictions are put in place.

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