Russia has brought in a new all-time high record harvest of 153mn-155mn tonnes of grain, President Vladimir Putin said during the visit to the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant on March 14. (chart)
"The Agriculture Minister reported to me two days ago that [the harvest] is already about 153-155mn metric tonnes. This is actually the record throughout the contemporary history of Russia and nothing of the kind occurred in Soviet times, certainly within the RSFSR framework," Putin said.
This is the second year in a row that Russia has set a new record grain harvest, as it brought in another record 153.8mn tonnes in 2022, smashing the previous all-time high – for both modern and Soviet times – of 135.4mn tonnes.
The government has poured money into agriculture as it sought to become entirely autonomous in food production, as part of Putin’s efforts to sanction-proof the country ahead of a showdown with the West over Ukraine.
However, some analysts have raised a question mark over the extraordinary results as they coincide with the war in Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of stealing significant amounts of grain from Ukrainian farms and fields.
Both this year’s and last year’s results are some 20mn tonnes more than the previous record.
However, experts interviewed by bne IntelliNews say that while Russia certainly has stolen grain it has not stolen large enough amounts to change the harvest result noticeably.
Russia is believed to have pilfered between 400,000 and 600,000 tonnes, according to various estimates, much of which has been shipped and sold to Syria. Altogether Russia has stolen or destroyed some 4mn tonnes of Ukrainian grain and the war has led to the total production of grain by Ukrainian farmers falling by a third.
Russian and Ukrainian grain exports have become a key issue, as an interruption in the export of grain threatens the developing world with a new food crisis.
Russia said it will only extend the Black Sea grain corridor for 60 days in a new grain export deal on March 14, a decision that Ukraine says breaks the terms of the previous Istanbul grain deal that was renewed on November 17.
Moscow made the announcement on March 13 following a visit from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to Kyiv last week amidst concerns that Russia will fail to renew the agreement for another 120 days once it ends on March 18.
Russia claims the decision is because its fertiliser exports and agricultural interests are not being taken into consideration, saying that after the recent discussion “barriers still remain in the way of Russian agricultural exporters.”