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Russia to become one of leaders in global agriculture in coming years — Putin

Russia's exports of agricultural produce and foods surged 16-folds as compared to 2000, according to the president

KRASNODAR, March 12. /TASS/. Russia should join ranks of leaders on the global agro-industrial market in recent years, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

"I am confident that Russia will become one of leaders on the world’s agro-industrial market already in coming years. As you might pay attention, I said in the state-of-the-nation address that we plan to deliver to global markets a greater volume of foods versus our import in four years. That is, Russia will become a net exporter of foods," Putin said.

Exports of meat products and high processing stage goods should grow, the president said. "In particular, this requires modern infrastructure and logistics, rail transport debottlenecking and capacity growth in marine ports, elevators and storage terminals," Putin said.

There is a need to develop supplies through the Far East to promising markets in the Asia-Pacific region, in the Northwest, and in the Azov-Black Sea basin, he said.

Russia should pay attention now to improvement of agricultural products quality and its greater competitiveness, the head of state said. Exports of agricultural produce and foods surged 16-folds as compared to 2000, he noted.

Revenues from agricultural exports are already a third above earnings from arms exports, the president said. "We have a surplus of one third now: [$] 28.8 bln are export revenues of the agricultural export and [$] 15.6 bln - from the defense industry sector," Putin added.

The agricultural products output is growing for five years in a row, the head of state said. "At the same time, the animal products output is growing for 13 years in series - I want to underline it - from 2005. In other words, not merely in conditions of domestic markets protection against foreign competitors in connection with known events," Putin said.

Russia’s agricultural production growth was 2.4% in 2017, the president said. The agricultural products output nearly doubled in comparison to the year of 2000. Production of grain and sugar beet showed exponential growth.

Gray imports

The Russian authorities will toughen measures to fight "gray imports" and counterfeit in the agricultural sector, Putin said.

"Of course, the extremal border of the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union - TASS) should not be transparent for penetration of goods which are restricted for import to the customs area of Russia. We understand this perfectly well and we are working on it constantly," the Russian leader said at the plenary session of the All-Russian Forum of Agricultural Producers.

Putin admitted that such work "sometimes triggers an enormous controversy" among Russia’s partners.

"But we will still do it, including we will toughen the responsibility for the corresponding violations," the president said.

This is how the head of state reacted to the speech of Yevgeniya Uvarkina, general director of the Agrofirma company, who complained about the problems in the country's dairy industry, including illegal imports and fake products.

"We are able to compete, but not with the vegetable fat and palm oil," she said. As an example she mentioned supplies of 150,000 tonnes of cheese products from Ukraine to Russia. The farmer asked the President to support the introduction of mandatory control over cheese products and to speed up the adoption of the law with penalties for fake products.

"There is not a single item from what you said, which I would not support," Putin replied.

He clarified that "this concerns the control of cheese products, dried milk."

"We are constantly in dialogue on these issues with our partners in the Eurasian Economic Community, including our Belarusian friends," the president said.

According to him, Russia supported the bill initiated by Belarus concerning cheese products.

"This also applies to gray (illegal - TASS) imports. We will certainly introduce all these tools to ensure you a normal, healthy, fair competition," the head of state assured the agricultural producers.

"When we created these associations [the Eurasian Economic Union], we proceeded from the assumption that the free movement of goods, capitals, people, labor will raise our overall competitiveness. Of course, no one thought that the institutes and instruments would be violated, especially if this is related to the so-called sanctions of European countries introduced against us and our countermeasures, "Putin said.

WTO requirements

The government will provide support to the domestic agricultural sector in competition with foreign producers within the scope of norms of the World Trade Organization, Putin said. 

"Despite all the external signs of compliance with WTO requirements, developed economies actually use a very wide range of instruments to support their producers of goods," Putin said. "We will also do this in future, without violation of principles and requirements of the World Trade Organization," the President said.

The return to the Russian market will be challenging for foreigners in future, Putin noted. The policy of the West initiating sanctions against Russia provided a chance to give assistance to national producers on the domestic market, the head of state said. "As we see, our agricultural sector took advantage of this opportunity and used it with high efficiency," he noted.