Russia to switch to growing soy beans and grapes?
Bread is king, the proverb goes. Grain has been a key crop on the Russian soil in all historical epochs. However, it is not ruled out that in the future Russia will have to refocus its agriculture and cultivate entirely different crops, such as grapes or soy. The cause is drought that came along with global warming.
Grain production was a key sector of agriculture in pre-revolutionary Russia. Later, the fertility of the land was undermined by civil wars and the First World War, after which the Soviet leadership made a significant effort to achieve the same level of harvest. Today, the grain industry leaders complain about the deteriorating situation on the grain market. They are disappointed by lack of support from the government, unwillingness of investors to invest in the agricultural sector and significant aging of agricultural machinery. In addition to other problems in the European territory of Russia most suitable for the agricultural industry, in recent years there has been a significant change in climate. The last fifteen years have been the driest in the recent history of Russia.
Years 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2010 were the driest. The change in Russian winters did not go unnoticed. If in earlier years snow cover stayed throughout the winter and part of spring, now winter in Russia is often characterized by a lack of snow cover or reduction of its height, which adversely impacts the ground, according to the grain portal Fermera.ru.
However, expert predictions about the effects of global warming on Russia vary. According to the staff of the Center of Environmental Economics and Natural Resources who recently prepared a report for Oxfam representative in Russia, the greenhouse effect threatens the Russian agriculture. Crops will be affected the most. According to the presented data, Gazeta.ru reported, the reduction of crop is very noticeable. In 2012, gross yield of grain and leguminous crops declined by 17 percent relative to the country average and as a whole for the five years in the period of 2006-2010, and by 25 percent compared with the previous year. The economic losses caused by appreciation of grain amounted to 182.3 billion rubles.
Consumers were also affected by rising prices of grains and products made with it. For example, the price of wheat has increased 2.2 times, rye - 5 times, feed barley - 3.4 times, and wheat flour - 1.9 times. The data was prepared by the Agency for Monitoring of Russian Agricultural Markets SovEcon. Experts assure that the Russians should prepare for an even greater increase in the cost of grain. According to experts' forecasts of the main Geodetic Observatory named after Voeikov, by 2050 the temperature rise in Russia will result in a drop of crop yields by 17 percent, and in some areas - even 30 percent or higher.
Meanwhile, because of reduced harvest the prices in the global grain market will steadily creep up. According to research by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex on extreme weather events and fluctuations in grain prices in changing climate, the climate change in 2030 will affect the crops as follows: cost of rice will increase by 33 percent, wheat - 29 percent, corn - 47 percent.
Analysts believe that by 2030, Russia will be re-classified from an exporter to an importer of grain, and in an attempt to adapt to new climatic conditions Russia's farmers will have to shift from grain segment of agriculture to growing grapes, soy or corn. However, there is another side effect of global warming on agriculture in Russia. Some experts, including representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), believe that the Russian agriculture could even benefit from the climate change.
Agricultural lands at risk would have to be moved to the northern areas of the country, 700-1000 kilometers away. This would allow significantly expanding the area of land conducive to agriculture, which, in turn, would allow Russia to increase exports. These prospects of Russia's agricultural development are set out in the National Report on the issues of global warming and climate change prepared by experts of MED.
MED forecasts, of course, are much more reassuring for Russia, especially given that the reduction in yield will occur and already occurs not only in Russia but in most countries of the world. For example, the drought impacted the grain market in France in 2003, when Western Europe saw record temperatures. The increased temperature in the tropics and subtropics over time will cause starvation of half of the world's population.
The most dramatic changes will occur in Africa, South America and parts of Asia. Only a few countries will be able to improve their agriculture in the new environment, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Canada, and some European countries. However, without making new technological solutions it would be impossible to overcome the problems of agriculture, so the concerns of Russian agrarians about the indifference of the authorities are becoming more noticeable.