By F.William Engdahl and cross-posted from New Eastern Outlook
As if it were not enough that Vladimir Putin’s Russia makes a monkey out of the US “anti-ISIS” campaign in Syria by accomplishing more in six months to damage the terrorist advance in that country than the Pentagon managed, with its suspiciously ineffective campaign in fourteen months. Now Russia delivers a huge slap in the face to US agribusiness domination of global food trade by deciding to make Russia the world’s largest exporter of healthy, non-GMO, non-industrial food.
Ignored by western media, as are most positive developments in Russia, President Vladimir Putin made his annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly Address on December 3. In his remarks he announced the national goal for Russia to become food self-sufficient within four years–by 2020.
One of the least commented sectors of the Russian economy—especially by superficial western economists who imagine Russia is merely an oil and gas export-dependent country much like Saudi Arabia or Qatar—is the significant transformation underway in Russian agriculture. Today, less than a year and a half into the decision to ban exports of major EU agriculture imports as a retaliation to the silly EU sanctions on Russia, Russia’s domestic farm production is undergoing a remarkable rebirth, or, in some cases, birth. In dollar terms, Russian exports of agriculture products exceed in value that of weapons, and equal a third of gas export profits. That’s interesting in itself.
President Putin told the assembled members of the parliament in his December speech, a Russian state of the nation review:
Our agriculture sector is a positive example. Just a decade ago we imported almost half of our food products and critically depended on imports, whereas now Russia has joined the exporters’ club. Last year Russia’s agricultural exports totaled almost $20 billion. This is a quarter more than our proceeds from arms sales or about one third of our profits from gas exports. Our agriculture has made this leap in a short but productive period. Many thanks to our rural residents.
I believe we should set a national goal — fully provide the internal market with domestically produced foods by 2020. We are capable of feeding ourselves from our own land, and importantly, we have the water resources. Russia can become one of the world’s largest suppliers of healthy, ecologically clean quality foods that some Western companies have stopped producing long ago, all the more so since global demand for such products continues to grow.
As a further measure, President Putin called on the Duma to enact measures to bring millions of hectares of now-idle arable land into use:
It is necessary to put to use millions of hectares of arable land that is now idle. They belong to large land owners, many of whom show little interest in farming. How many years have we been talking about this? Yet things are not moving forward. I suggest withdrawing misused agricultural land from questionable owners and selling it at an auction to those who can and want to cultivate the land.
The agriculture shift
Beginning with Vladimir Putin’s first presidency, in 2000 Russia began to transform its agriculture production. During the disastrous Yeltsin years in the 1990’s, Russia imported a huge portion of its food. That was in part due to a misplaced belief that everything “Made in America” or in the West was better. Russia imported tasteless factory farm US mass-produced poultry instead of promoting her superior-tasting, natural, free-roaming chickens. The country imported artificially colored, tasteless tomatoes from Spain or Holland instead of the delicious, succulent home-grown organic tomatoes. I know; I’ve had both. There’s no comparison. The organic Russian food trumps the western dishonest, adulterated industrial products today mis-labeled as food.
What was not understood in the Yeltsin era was that the food quality of those western imports had drastically declined since introduction of American “agri-business” and factory food in the 1970’s. The EU followed suit with its imitation of US industrial methods, only a bit less extreme. Further, intensive use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics which pass through animals into the fields, all have led to the dramatic depletion of essential micro-organisms in American and, increasingly, EU agriculture soils…