Staunton, October 26 – Last year, Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, Russia earlied almost two billion US dollars more from the sale of agricultural products than from weapons sales, an achievement the Kremlin leader indicated he hopes to build on this year given the large harvest (agroinfo.com/2410201703-eksport-rossijskix-tovarov-selxoznaznacheniya-prevysil-prodazhi-vooruzhenij/).
But just as in the past when Russian and Soviet leaders have promoted the sale of agricultural products abroad in order to fill state coffers, there may be collateral damage for the people of Russia, a third of whom again are projected to suffer shortages of bread and inflation as a result of this state policy.
The central Russian media have talked about this possibility for St. Petersburg (themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-wheat-export-could-cause-bread-deficit-in-st-petersburg-59363 and echo.msk.ru/news/2079888-echo.html), but in fact, far more regions and thus people are likely to be affected.
These outlets have covered the appeal by Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavenko to Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich about the shortage of railroad cars to carry grain to the northern capital because of “the massive export of grain from Russia.” But as the Urals news agency reports, the problem is far larger than that.
If Poltovenko is right, the URA agency says, that means in fact that shortages in domestic grain deliveries would in fact hit the entire North-West Federal District which includes 11 regions and the Volga Federal District which includes 14. Thus, “the problem could touch almost a third of the country” (ura.news/news/1052309962).
Elena Tyurina, the director of the Institute of Agricultural Marketing, says that both of those federal districts rely on grain from elsewhere but that Moscow’s push to export grain is creating “definite logistical problems” because “there aren’t enough wagons for carrying grain to the problem regions.”
The Russian transportation ministry says it is working on the problem. Its solution? To extend the working day of those officials responsible for processing documents for the transportation of grain by rail. But that will do nothing to address the underlying problem: Russia simply doesn’t have enough rail stock to handle the situation.
And when forced to choose between making money for itself by selling grain abroad or ensuring that the Russian people have enough to eat, Moscow once again has shown that for it the former is more important than the latter.