Expert assesses whether Belarusian potatoes will help bring down prices in Russia

An additional batch of potatoes of several tens of tons or even tens of thousands of tons, the supply of which the Russian government is negotiating with Belarus, will not have a big impact on the general situation and prices for potatoes on the Russian market, says Aleksey Krasilnikov, executive director of the Potato Union.

He recalls that Russia annually produces about 7-7.5 million tons of potatoes. Thus, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 86% of the population’s demand for potatoes is covered. Moreover, Moscow alone annually consumes about 800 thousand tons of potatoes.

According to Aleksey Krasilnikov, there is no exact statistics on the volume of mutual trade in potatoes with Belarus. “If we recall the story of a year and a half ago, when Ukrainians had a shortage of potatoes amid a drought, Russia and Belarus shared the second and third places in terms of deliveries to Ukraine. very difficult, “says the expert.

At the same time, the data of the Federal Customs Service and Rosstat differ in this regard: from 50 to 150 thousand tons of imports of Belarusian potatoes per year. Some experts say about 300 thousand tons of annual deliveries of Belarusian potatoes to Russia.

But it is impossible to talk about any great need, and even more so a shortage of potatoes in Russia, Krasilnikov believes. Despite the fact that last year in Russia 10% less potatoes were harvested, this is “not critically less” than the level of 2019, the expert estimates. There may have been problems with the caliber and quality of the potatoes. But in Belarus, the potatoes of the last year’s harvest are now also clearly not of brilliant quality, and trading networks may not accept them. In appearance and consumer qualities, it is unlikely to be able to compete with early potatoes from Azerbaijan and Egypt. In addition, the price of Belarusian potatoes is not lower than Russian ones. And taking into account the logistics, it will be more expensive. In addition, the first shipments of early Crimean potatoes are already appearing on Russian shelves, and in two weeks deliveries from Astrakhan will begin.

“Perhaps we are talking about some kind of point deliveries, for example, for processing enterprises, so as not to stop production. In this case, it is expedient,” Aleksey Krasilnikov suggests.

Earlier in an interview with RIA Novosti, Deputy Prime Minister Victoria Abramchenko said that the Cabinet of Ministers is discussing with Belarus the possibility of purchasing several tens of tons of potatoes. Thus, the Russian authorities want to stabilize prices for it. This will be enough to painlessly wait for the new harvest.

Potatoes are one of the most expensive foods. Over the year, its wholesale price has grown by one and a half times. Experts attribute this to a reduction in acreage last year and bad weather. In addition, the increase in the cost of resources (seeds, fuel, etc.), as well as a shortage of personnel, affected. Aleksey Krasilnikov told RG that for the last 3-4 years, due to low prices for potatoes, farmers had almost no profitability, which led to a reduction in areas by 10 thousand hectares (primarily in private subsidiary farms and small producers). With an average yield of 20-25 centners per hectare, we have thus lost 500 thousand tons.

Despite the self-sufficiency in potatoes at the level of 86%, the domestic market was oversaturated in the commodity sector, the expert explains. Therefore, the price fell, and small producers preferred other, more marginal crops instead of potatoes. At the same time, the consumption of potatoes in Russia is half the recommended norms: 54 kg versus 105-110 kg per year. Thus, on average, a Russian spends about 200-300 rubles a month on potatoes. Therefore, even if in the short term it is necessary to buy potatoes one and a half times more expensive than the usual price, this will not hit the consumer’s wallet, Krasilnikov is sure.

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