Yevgeny Shifanov, co-owner of the organic farm, says his business is feeling the pain of Western sanctions and can no longer sell his grain to Europe.
However, the 42-year-old has a brave face and said he is shifting his focus to former Soviet countries such as Belarus and domestic customers.
“We are more interested in the domestic market and the economy,” the co-owner of Chyorny Khleb (“Blackbread”) told AFP.
Sifanov’s business is located in the village of Katmanovo on the banks of the Oka River, about 150 km (90 miles) south of Moscow, and is one of the many small farms that have grown rapidly in Russia over the last decade.
Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine has devastated crops and agriculture in pro-Western countries, disrupted important deliveries from Ukraine, and fueled hunger and food price concerns around the world.
Military operations also focused heavily on Russia’s own agricultural sector.
The country is the world’s largest wheat exporter and has been accused by the West of using grains as a geopolitical tool.
Russia appears to be hitting the current grain conflict with the West, but experts say its agricultural sector is also preparing for a tough time.
In Chyorny Khleb, which grows grains on over 1,000 hectares of land, green wheat stalks are knee-high. Farmers enjoy relatively calm before the harvest begins in late July.
“We will plant the land in March or April after we start preparing the land. We will soon enjoy the results of the work,” said Alexei Yershov, a 28-year-old tractor driver, before climbing the red and black tractors. I did. He goes out to the buckwheat field.
The Ministry of Agriculture forecasts a harvest of 130 million tonnes, including a record 87 million tonnes of wheat, and the outlook for this season is good.
But farmers admit that they have been struggling since the beginning of unprecedented Western sanctions.
“We are facing logistics problems,” said Siffanov, adding that although he has partners in Europe and Israel, trucks carrying agricultural products from his farm abroad were blocked at the border.
“We have buyers abroad, but we can’t do anything and we can’t deliver to them. Now we can only do it in the domestic market,” he said.
He also added that he was looking for a partner in Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan.
The farm is gradually adapting to new realities.
Like many other Russian companies, the farm “panicked” in the first few weeks of the crisis and bought a year’s worth of packaging, which is now collecting dust.
One of Sifanov’s partners lacks the glue needed to create the label.
“It was imported from Europe,” said Sifanov, standing in a hut between mountains of wheat.
“They are trying to solve the problem via China, but logistics is still complicated,” he added.
In a nearby building, 40-year-old Roman Tikhonov works on an Austrian wooden milling machine.
The miller said the farm is learning to operate without foreign-made spare parts.
“Recently something broke. I found the material and fixed it,” he said.
“I had been waiting for a long time before the spare parts arrived from Austria, but now that I make them myself, it’s faster.”
The neighboring Ukrainian milling machine has received spare parts via Belarus since the hostilities between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists in 2014.
Nevertheless, Sifanov says he is relieved that his tractor was made primarily in Russia or Belarus.
-Trading at a discounted price-
The grain market is also adapting to the new situation.
Prior to Russia’s military operations, wheat prices were already high at around $ 300 per ton, but are now over $ 400.
Andrey Sizov, head of Sovecon, a Russian agricultural consultancy, said Russia now sells grains at discounted prices, much like oil.
“Russia’s grain war discount is $ 20 per ton,” he told AFP.
“Russian grain is cheaper than French grain, for example, because it needs to be priced to reflect additional costs such as freight, insurance and payment issues.”
Inflation not only puts farmers at higher production costs, but in 2021, authorities introduced a strict export tax that accounts for “about 30 percent of farmers’ income.”
“Ironically, the high prices of wheat were mainly caused by the Russian war, but at the same time Russian farmers did not benefit from them.”