Cherkizovo Group, Russia's largest meat producer, organized an independent business dialogue on "Ensuring Sustainability: The Contribution of Russian Business to the Development of Global Food Systems." The event was conducted jointly with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit.
The UN summit will be held in September in New York and will be an important stage in working out common international approaches to ensuring the sustainable development of food markets and addressing related global challenges. During the Moscow business dialogue, representatives of large agricultural companies, industry unions, and leading experts in agriculture discussed the main challenges facing international and national food security, as well as possible solutions reflecting the interests of the Russian business community.
The sustainable functioning of agricultural markets and ensuring food security occupy an important place on the agenda of the Russian business community and are needed for steady development of the entire national economy, Alexander Shokhin, RSPP President, stressed in his opening remarks. It is important, he said, to consider the sustainable development of food systems not only from the sectoral standpoint, but also as a cross-cutting topic related to various aspects of business and development of the national economy.
The potential of the Russian agriculture is not being fully utilized: Russia's share of the global agricultural industry is about 2%, even though the country is one of the top four countries by amount of arable land. Dmitry Aveltsov, Head of the Center of Agroanalytics, FGBU (Federal State Budgetary Institution), emphasized in his speech that the country “has a huge amount of arable land, a reserve in terms of production volumes, a reserve at world prices favorable for agricultural products. There is a window of opportunity, which should be used.”
Sergey Yushin, Head of the Executive Committee of the National Meat Association, drew the experts' attention to the still unresolved problem of global hunger. Only a small part of the world's population today receives a sufficient amount of food (for example, the average world per capita consumption of meat is 43 kg a year). Therefore, he said, in the context of ensuring the sustainability of food systems, it is extremely important to address the problems of hunger and availability of food. However, he noted, we have to be very careful about large-scale national implementation of global initiatives aimed at changing the structure of food production and solving issues in related sectors, such as counteracting climate change.
This point was supported by Sergey Lakhtyukhov, General Director of the National Union of Poultry Farmers, who criticized the policy of leading international organizations to reduce consumption of animal protein. In his view, such approaches to the food supply will not solve the problem of food shortages, but, on the contrary, will significantly aggravate the risks to food security and sustainable development of agricultural production around the world, including in Russia. Therefore, Mr. Lakhtyukhov stressed, it is necessary to form an agenda for Russia that would reflect the industry's own interests.
Dmitry Krasnov, interim Head of the RF Federal Center for Agricultural Exports Development, talked about the contradictions between the global and Russian sustainability agendas. In his view, forming an international agenda that would meet the interests of Russian businesses requires not only taking an active part in the work of international organizations, but also ensuring the presence of Russian companies in the global food market, and maintaining and constantly increasing the competitiveness of the Russian agricutlural industry.
A wide range of additional issues was discussed during the business dialogue: the impact of the coronavirus on international supply chains, ensuring food supplies in a situation of all-round spread of animal diseases, and the need for Russia to participate in developing global product promotion standards.
Summarizing the discussion, Andrey Terekhin, Head of Industry Unions and Government Relations at Cherkizovo Trade House, noted that the goals of sustainable development are already being implemented in the Russian agricultural sector. However, the industry needs its profitability and productivity to evolve; this will help to strengthen its international position and increase its contribution to global food security, he said.
“The prospects for growth in Russia are greater than in other parts of the world, and this imposes a great responsibility on us. The export agenda is very important; in the competitive struggle, Russia has to overcome protectionism to enter new markets. The predominance of national interests has grown sharply in the context of the pandemic, which requires that these interests be adequately reflected in practical policy. Russia is ready to participate in the formation of global systems,” said Mr. Terekhin in summary.
The business dialogue event was also attended by Artem Belov, CEO of Soyuzmoloko, Yuri Kovalev, CEO of the National Union of Pig Breeders, Sergey Mikhnevich, Managing Director of the RSPP Department for International Multilateral Cooperation and Integration, Sergey Gudkov, Executive Director of the Fishery Union, Ilya Strokin, Director of the Agribusiness Center of Excellence, KPMG in Russia, Oksana Kuznetsova, Director of V.M. Gorbatov Federal Research Center for Food Systems, and other experts.