Russia is on track to smash all previous records with the size of this year’s grain harvest. President Vladimir Putin said that the bumper harvest could be as big as 150mn tonnes this year on September 27.
The previous record was set in 2018 when Russia brought in 135mn tonnes, beating all previous records, including those set in Soviet times.
Russia’s government has invested heavily in agriculture in the last decade and dramatically improved yields to become the world’s biggest grain exporter.
"The preliminary estimate (for 2022) already stands at 150mn tonnes, including around 100mn tonnes of wheat. This will be a record in the history of Russia," Putin said in televised meeting on agriculture as cited by the Moscow Times.
According to Putin, "138.7mn tonnes of grain have already been harvested. The delivery of our grain and our fertiliser abroad unfortunately remains... difficult," Putin said. "Sanctions against Russia risk leading to a further deterioration of the situation, to a global food crisis," he added.
The new estimate easily beats the previous forecast of 130mn tonnes set at the start of this year by the Agriculture Ministry, with exports of 45mn tonnes. (chart) The wheat harvest is also especially large, as Russia usually produces some 70mn tonnes per year (tpy) of wheat.
Russia has been exporting some 50mn tpy of grain, but this year’s estimate was already expected to be below par, even before the war in Ukraine started.
The potential for Russian grain exports should be higher this year, as Ukraine, Russia’s main competitor on the international traded wheat market, is expected to produce half its usual amount because about half of its wheat fields are in occupied zones.
Russian grain exports have also been affected by international sanctions on the country’s access to international shipping, although Moscow managed to have some of those restrictions eased as part of the Istanbul grain deal signed on July 22 that unbottled the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports.
Putin has also complained that most of the grain exported from Ukraine has gone to EU countries and not the poorest countries in places like Africa that are still facing a potential food crisis.
"Grain from Ukraine continues to bypass the poorest countries," Putin said during his remarks. "As of September 23, out of 203 ships that left the ports of Ukraine, only four went to the poorest countries under the United Nations programme."
Ukraine and European countries have refuted these accusations.