“We can't leave fields and farms” — farmers asking for support

Farmers have asked the government of Tatarstan to reduce prices for fuel and lubricant materials

As it became known to Realnoe Vremya, agricultural producers asked the government of Tatarstan for support against the background of the crisis. In the letter, farmers offer to reduce the price of fuel and lubricant materials, citing losses due to the fall in the ruble and general self-isolation. In the current situation, the current fuel allowances are insignificant, said Kamiyar Baytemirov, the head of the Association of Farmers and Farmsteads of the Republic of Tatarstan: “Tatarstan can take such decision, we are an oil region.” Minister of Agriculture of Tatarstan Marat Zyabbarov has set the task — to speedily finalise the preparation of agricultural machinery to bring it to the fields. While doctors are fighting the spread of coronavirus, farmers will have to withstand the difficult conditions of the battle for the harvest and ensure food security of the population.

“We can't leave the fields and farms”

“The work of agrarians and farmers doesn't stop for a single day. All of them are currently working in the fields, farms and processing enterprises of the republic and will continue their work, despite the announced weekend," Marat Zyabbarov, the head of the ministry of agriculture of Tatarstan, reported at a meeting with Russian Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev. The latter stressed how important it is to ensure the smooth operation of the industry and, at the same time, to take care of the safety of agricultural workers in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Patrushev declared the inadmissibility of non-payment of wages in rural areas.

“Enterprises continue their work, we can't leave the fields and farms. Agricultural producers, along with those people who block the coronavirus, also guard the safety of people, only food one: they will not allow our population to remain without products in the following months. There are permits for those who need to pass into the city, who carry goods. There were some problems with these documents. In the morning, people had to deliver products to the city, so they called me and asked for help. In the second half of the day, apparently, the problems were solved — there were almost no appeals," Kamiyar Baytemirov, the chairperson of the Association of Farmers and Farmsteads (LPK and SHPK) of Tatarstan, told Realnoe Vremya.

Bases with spare parts are closed

Deputy Chairman of Tatarstan State Council, ex-Minister of Agriculture and Food Marat Akhmetov explained to our publication that fairs and markets are now closed is only a small portion of total agricultural production of the republic:

“All manufacturers already have established sales channels. Fairs are a social project that provides the population with products at low prices. The indicators of agricultural sector production this year are even slightly higher than last year, including for livestock. There are no problems in food stores. The ministry of agriculture closely monitors prices for the population. There are no concerns about the situation.

Kamiyar Baytemirov said that due to the closure of agricultural markets, “the economy of the agricultural sector is suffering to a certain extent, as well as all people are suffering from the pandemic in general. Almost all industrial goods stores and bases that sell spare parts for tractors, seeders, and cultivators are closed. What will happen to businesses that have not purchased them? In some cases, there will be losses, someone will not go to the field in time. But the calendar still allows them to get through this week and find a way out of the situation.

In the current situation, taking into account the fall in the ruble exchange rate, the current benefits for fuel for farmers are not significant, the source of the publication noted: “Maybe it would be better to give these funds to farmers?" On March 30, the Association of Farmers and Peasant Farmsteads of Tatarstan received a letter from the Cabinet of Ministers of Tatarstan, which asked to submit their proposals for stabilization measures necessary to the agricultural sector.

“In our response, we indicated that due to that oil prices have fallen and that agricultural producers are suffering certain losses, the price of fuel should be reduced by 25-30%. This will also compensate for the losses associated with the coronavirus emergency. The appeal was submitted to the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of economy of the republic. Tatarstan can make such decision, we are an oil region, after all. This measure is also beneficial to the state. It is necessary not to wait, but to create prerequisites for internal consumption. We do not ask for fuel and lubricant materials for free, but offer to create a market within the region," Baytemirov stressed.

He believes that the current situation requires a dictatorship not of the market but of the authorities. The state has different methods for this: subsidies, commodity stocks.

“Let's wait and see what will happen to prices — for this, there is a state and reserve funds that regulate the market. I do not think that this season we will sow less and harvest less than last year — it will be enough to feed the country and create reserves," said Baytemirov.

“We have already had a practice of regulating subsidizing the cost of flour”

According to Dmitry Patrushev, during a meeting of the headquarters for monitoring the situation with socially important agricultural products, the ministry of agriculture of Russia provided a number of additional measures to maintain stability in the food market of our country. In particular, a restrictive quota mechanism for exports of the most important grain crops for the Russian market has been developed — a quota of 7 million tonnes is envisaged for the period from April 1 to June 30 this year. Besides, the agency has started preparing for commodity interventions in the amount of 1 million tonnes. These measures guarantee the necessary amount of grain for food and feed purposes, will reduce grain prices, and will also prevent a jump in consumer prices for food products.

Marat Akhmetov notes that for this time of year, prices for grain of agricultural producers are quite high. He also does not see any prerequisites for raising the price of bread. “Even if there are any questions, we have already had the practice of regulating subsidies for the cost of flour used for baking bread.”

“Agriculture is responsible for food security. There is the government that knows how to solve these issues strategically. The country has huge oil production volumes. With reasonable regulation of relations between the oil production and refining industries and the supply of its products within the country, I do not see any concerns about the rise in the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel. If world prices fall (they may be not as low in the country), I think the government will not compensate for any losses or lost revenues from oil exports at the expense of domestic prices, by increasing the cost of these services for the population.

The soil has accumulated moisture since autumn, but we should not rush in early spring

Earlier, Marat Zyabbarov, referring to crop forecasts, cited statistics linking it to the beginning of field work over the past 30 years. The most productive years were 1997 and 2008. In 1997, the sowing started late, on April 24 (gross harvest — 6,2 million tonnes), in 2008 — earlier than the average annual, on April 7 (6,3 million tonnes).

“It's too early to talk about crop prospects. What will happen to the weather conditions is still unclear, everyone is coming out of hibernation. The sowing hasn't started yet," Dmitry Rylko, the director general of the Institute of Agricultural Market Conjuncture, commented on the current situation to Realnoe Vremya.

Visiting the regions of Tatarstan, Deputy Chairman of the State Council Committee on Ecology, Nature Management, Agro-industrial and Food Policy Takhir Khadeev managed to inspect the fields.

“With this early spring, we are ten days ahead of the usual start of the season. By the beginning of April, we were approaching without cataclysms, nature gently entered the spring process, without sharp changes," said Khadeev.

“The spring has come a little early, the snow has gone," Marat Akhmetov said.

Those working directly on the ground with confidence note that a snow-free winter will not cause a lack of moisture for the future crop. Thanks to the wet autumn, the water reserves in the soil are decent.

Chief Agronomist of the Department of Agriculture and Food in the Arsky district Rail Shakirzyanov builds optimistic plans for the harvest:

“There is enough moisture in the soil since autumn. I looked at the forecasts: I think everything will be fine with precipitation, and with the temperature. The formed moisture layer already promises a good harvest. Now farmers need to work quickly, do everything in time, then everything will be normal this year.

The Arsky district has the largest area in the republic for potatoes. The chief agronomist gives a good forecast for it. “You just need to plant it, make fertilizers. I don't see any problems with potato crop failure," he says.

Chief Agronomist of Logos PLC Ayzat Zaripov from Rybno-Slobodsky district is in no hurry to determine the volume of harvest for the new season, fearing May frosts:

“Spring is early this year: we will sow corn now, but it is afraid of frosts. Sometimes, there is no sense in starting the sowing works early, everything needs to be done on time.

Minimum snow in warm winter — for the benefit of winter crops

Agrarians note that weather anomalies that have plagued the country all winter and early spring have not yet affected crops. According to Dmitry Rylko, “everything is fine with winter crops, despite the snowless winter, they did not die.”

“Winter crops wintered well and have not been affected. This mild winter and snow cover was moderate. The spring is smooth and favourable. For winter crops, you can already calm yourself to some extent, the early fertilization has passed — more fertilizers have been accumulated than last year. This means that as an insurance crop, winter crops promise an average annual yield, with almost no losses," said Marat Akhmetov.

Leading Researcher of the Tatar Research Institute of Agriculture, Candidate of Agricultural Science Irina Fadeeva told our publication:

“In cold weather, plants should breathe poorly and spend little sugar. Theoretically, after such a mild winter, they should be exhausted, since it was warm, the winter crops used up nutrients. And the higher the snow, the warmer it is for winter crops under it. In such circumstances rotting under the snow also happens. But this year there was little snow, so the plants are still well preserved. The republic is big, and wintering conditions could vary greatly in different regions. Where the soil was frozen — this is very good — the plants breathed weakly.

According to Deputy Khadeev, despite the peculiar weather of recent months, almost 500,000 hectares of crops feel satisfactory. “Sugar gives the opportunity to complete the full winter and start growing. Losses can be probably from 5 to 10 per cent, which experts believe is the norm.”

Irek Sadykov, the head of the Department of Agriculture Development of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Tatarstan, confirmed to Realnoe Vremya that the condition of winter crops is good:

“Twenty per cent of the sugar content is a good figure for the current period. We conduct daily monitoring. Plant death is insignificant. Losses are currently forecasted at no more than 5-7 per cent. There is no tragedy.

“I've visited several farms — winter crops are in excellent condition. Those who followed agricultural technologies — everything is good for them. The main thing is that after the beginning of the growing season, serious cold weather does not return. All the other is fine!” Rail Shakirzyanov believes.

By Yekaterina Ablaeva, Eleonora Rylova