Russia becomes a grain superpower as wheat exports explode

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MOSCOW. KAZINFORM - Almost 25 years after watching the Dawn of Communism collective farm where he grew up land in the dustbin of history, Andrey Burdin is helping turn Russia into something the communists never could: a grain-export powerhouse, Bloomberg reports.

Over the last few years, Burdin has tripled the size of his farm on the steppe near the Black Sea, winning prizes from the local government for how much wheat he's produced from the rich soil here and pumping profits back into new tractors and sprayers.

His harvest this season will be a third bigger than what it was just five years ago, helping fuel an explosion in grain exports that has allowed Russia to displace longtime global leaders like the U.S. and European Union.

Long known for its oil and gas, Russia is now moving to retake leadership in the world wheat trade it last held when the Czars ruled. In the process, it's reshaping the market for one of the world's most important traded food products.

"People have started to think about the future," said Burdin, 42 years old, new tractors lined up outside the window of his office. "Before, everyone just lived day to day."

Farm Renaissance

He plans to buy a Deere & Co. sprayer for 20 million rubles ($311,000) to add to his fleet in time for planting next spring, he said.

From the Black Sea coast and the Volga River heartland to the sun-scorched steppes of Siberia, Russia's farm belt is enjoying a renaissance, with grain at the leading edge. Turbocharged by the 45 percent drop in the ruble against the dollar over the last few years and bumper crops, local producers are crowding into export markets long dominated by big western players.

Last season, Russian topped the U.S. in wheat exports for the first time in decades and is expected to extend those gains to displace the EU from the top spot this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investors from local farmers to billionaire tycoons are pumping money into the business.

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