Russia as “Global Breadbasket”: Large-Scale Agriculture and Land Grabbing
Russia’s rise to the top group of global wheat exporters, the abundance of abandoned land, assumed yield gaps and the apparent ‘success’ of huge agroholdings, have nurtured expectations that it will be the future global breadbasket. However, reaching this goal is hindered by substantial costs of re-cultivating abandoned land, management and financial problems of megafarms and agroholdings, lack of infrastructure for exports and increased domestic and demand for feed grains as input for the meat sector. Furthermore, as Russian wheat production is extremely volatile (due to varying weather conditions), it might increase global price volatility, rather than contributing to global food security.
Russia has between 40-50 million hectares of arable land reserves, much abandoned in the 1990s. That this land available, unused or even unpopulated supports arguments favoring large-scale land acquisitions (or ‘land grab’) and investments. ‘Land grabbing’, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa by Chinese companies, and from other populous, high-income Asian countries as South Korea, has received considerable attention, while in post-Soviet Eurasia it has gone largely unnoticed. The lecture will address the reasons why this is so, as well as assessing why the area is attractive to such ‘land grabs’ and why it is hardly opposed by any social movements.