Grenfell - By Kristine MacDougall
Editor's note: This is the final article in a series of stories written by Sun/Express reporter Kristine MacDougall on her recent trip to Russia.
In today's article, she speaks with a local government official in the southern city of Krasnodar, and a local Russian farmer about the impacts Canadians are having on the agricultural sector in Russia.
Agriculture in Russia today is as important a sector there, as it is here in Saskatchewan. It has the potential to have as big an effect in Russia as the potash or auto industry does here in this country.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a very large, international agricultural exhibition in the city of Krasnodar, in southern Russia. While there, I spoke with local government officials and local farmers about the need for and importance of such an exhibition.
"It is the 15th annual YugAgro exhibition. For the past three years, it has been ranked first of all exhibitions in southern Russia," said Mr. Denis V. Zabolotniy, First Deputy Head of the Department of External Economic Activity/Development for the Krasnodar Region (Administration). "It is one of the most important agricultural exhibitions in the country."
Mr. Zabolotniy added. "The machinery and the products in this country are represented at the YugAgro exhibition and this plays a most important role for us," he said through an interpreter.
Developing strong political and economic relations with foreign countries like Canada, says Mr. Zabolotniy, is important in establishing ties and partnerships.
"Canada is one of the most prospective countries now, for us to begin working with," he said noting the different ways in which Canada and Russia can co-operate.
"We are interested not only in agriculture but also in transport technologies, innovations and infrastructure or building construction," said Mr. Zabolotniy adding "we believe there will be economic benefits for both countries and we are ready to start working together and co-operating."
As deputy of the Department of External Economic Activity, Zabolotniy believes that Canada and Russia, particularly the province of Saskatchewan, need to share ideas and knowledge, as well as participate in exhibitions like YugAgro, to learn more about agriculture in both countries.
"First, we need to take part in all the exhibitions and then possibly open several bureau centers for different companies to provide service support for (Canadian) farming technology," he said referring to an example and well known company "Claas" located in southern Russia.
"It is a huge factory here in Krasnodar that specializes in agricultural machinery. So maybe one of the best ways to work together (with Canada) would be to open a similar factory of (Canadian) equipment and farming machinery here, and have manufacturers and suppliers provide their services to local businesses."
Zabolotniy pointed to the big interest many companies have in the Krasnodar region today, due to it's favorable climate, soil conditions and fertile land. And that is something local farmers know about.
One of them is Sasha (Alexander). He's been a farmer in the Krasnodar region for over a decade, and thinks that Canada has the potential to make a big impact in the Russian agricultural sector.
"If Canadians start investing in Russia it will be very good," he said through an interpreter.
"When I studied in high school, teachers told me that we have similarities with Canada, such as the climate." He said adding, "Krasnodar is the biggest farming region in Russia and it's a very big industry for the southern part of the country."
Sasha is currently raising sheep and cattle for meat production and hopes to continue in this area. He does not have the size of land or equipment needed to grow wheat or rice products.
Sasha says there is a big need for farming machinery and equipment and as well, many farmers like himself, are not familiar with Canadian dry land farming practices, but are eager to learn.
He and some of his friends, also farmers, attended YugAgro in November to learn more about such techniques and gather information on farming machinery and livestock.
"The reason why I went there is because I was looking for new types of animals and information about animal husbandry," he said adding "my friends are specifically looking for a partnership or business relationship with Canadians because they like the equipment."
Sasha also mentioned some of the challenges that farmers face today, including financing and high interest rates, which currently range from 14-16 per cent and as high as 20 per cent in some areas. But he says farmers are beginning to get some help.
"There are some good signs that the (Russian) government is really doing something positive for farmers."
Sasha remains optimistic about his future as a farmer and believes that Canada will play a vital role in the success of Russia's agricultural sector over the next few years.
"We need new machinery and equipment to start and run our farms," he said. "This takes a lot of investing and money. I think Canada will be the one to help many Russian farmers."
Russians speak of impact Canadians have in agriculture
Grenfell - By Kristine MacDougall
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