Forum for the Future of Agriculture

6th September 2010 – The Forum for the Future of Agriculture’s meeting in Moscow has raised many important issues. These have included the necessity to build a greater understanding between the EU and Russia on agricultural policy and the need to establish closer links. In addition, leaders have been asked to work together and find solutions to common food and environmental security challenges.

This meeting has taken place against the backdrop of the decision taken by the Russian Government to ban exports of cereals, following a summer of severe drought. This event brought together key political leaders from Russia and the EU, along with stakeholders from International agri-businesses, farmers and landowners, academic institutions, and NGO’s, with the aim of establishing key areas for cooperation and the best farming practices.

During the FFA, stakeholders have demonstrated a great interest in the development which Russian agriculture has undergone over the last two decades. However, speakers have also concentrated on Russia’s need for machinery modernization and on the need to develop her infrastructure. Stakeholders have also focused their attention on the EU’s and Russia’s agricultural trade, despite the cereals export ban, since Russia is still considered the EU’s third biggest trading partner. On top of this, at the FFA there have also been demands for an expansion of areas of cooperation between the EU and Russia in order for agriculture and food security issues to be covered.

Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation Elena Skrynnik, wrote to Conference delegates telling them that “Agribusiness has always been one of the key industries in Russia. Grain production is considered to be the basis of agribusiness as well as being of strategic importance in providing our country with food security, strengthening Russia’s position in the global agri-food market, and establishing the foundation of our Customs Union.” She also spoke about this summer’s extreme climatic conditions which “complicated the economic conditions of agricultural commodity producers.”

Conference Chairman, the former EU Agriculture Commissioner and Chairman of the RISE Foundation Franz Fischler also participated in this event and argued that “unless climate change and the consequences of environmental degradation are not successfully tackled it will have a serious impact on our ability to produce enough food.” For Mr. Fischler in order to avoid major political, economic, social and environmental upheavals “the collaboration between the EU and Russia is of fundamental importance.”

President and founder of AMBIKA Mikhail Orlov spoke about Russia’s potential to “guarantee domestic social stability by providing its population with enough quality food at acceptable prices” However, in order to achieve this; he made it clear that “Russia must become more efficient and competitive.” Therefore, although Mr. Orlov believes in “Russia’s potential to become a leading world power in the Feed the World Challenge” and is aware of the fact that “ Europe is one of Russia’s most important neighbors and partners” , in his own words, “formal as well as informal bridges must of course be further improved and consolidated.”

Chief Executive of Syngenta in Russia, Mr. Pierre Cohadon stated that “with 10% of the World’s arable land, Russia has enormous potential for expanding agricultural production.” His optimistic view on Russia’s position the World was made clear with the words “I am convinced Russia will soon become a leader in the world grain production, maybe even surpassing the US as the World’s biggest wheat exporter.” With regards to the role of Syngenta, he spoke about Synegnta’s active role in Russian expansion, by having offered both “small and large hold farmers innovative products and technology as well as training activities.”

Finally, ELO’s secretary General Thierry de L’ Escaille went on to talk about the need to “find solutions to the global challenges of food security, climate change and environmental degradation” and of the importance of Russian and EU cooperation in environmental protection “in order to successfully tackle food and environmental security challenges at the global level.”

Over 150 delegates, drawn from Russia and across the EU, attended the Regional FFA and again contributed to a high level of debate on the challenges and opportunities in Russian agriculture and the scope for partnership with the European Union.

The Forum for the Future of Agriculture returns to The Square, Brussels, next year with it’s annual conference (FFA2011) taking place on Tuesday March 15th 2011.

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