Russia, which has been increasing its grain exports since the beginning of the 21st century, is getting ready to become the top grain exporter for the first time after a century. Moscow is heading towards infrastructure and the increase seems to sustain.
Russia, one of the world’s leading grain producers, has increased its exports nearly thirty-five times in the last 17 years. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Russia, which has exported only 1.3 million tons of grains during the 2000-01 season, is estimated to export 44.5 million tons this season which is a record. If these estimations hold, the country will be the world leader in grain exports for the first time since the last years of the Tsarist regime.
2017-18 estimations indicate that the country’s annual grain production will be about 133 million tons. 44.5 million tons of this production is earmarked for exports. Officials say these figures are the upper limit that can be reached with the current infrastructure of the country.
Andrey Sizov, managing director at Sovecon, Russian agricultural consultancy, notes that the country’s capacity is higher. “If it were not for the infrastructure problem, we could have exported 50-55 million tons,” said Sizov to Reuters. The Moscow administration, which wants to increase its exports even more, has accelerated investments in order to prevent infrastructure constraints. Russia has begun to enlarge some terminals and is constructing one port in the Black Sea and two ports in the eastern region addressing China. It is expected that exports will continue to increase as these ports are in service. Russian Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachov said that the ports addressing China would be completed by 2020 and that will provide an export capacity of 11 million tons. However, experts point out that the infrastructure across the country to feed these new ports may not be ready at the time.
There are also some problems other than the domestic infrastructure issues for the country to rapidly increase its grain exports. Russian exporters previously used the Ukrainian ports which have a capacity of 52 million tons of grain shipment in the Black Sea. However, they don’t have this opportunity after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.