5 Jun 2024 12:58

Russia's AgMin lowers 2024 apple harvest forecast to 1.5 mln t, in talks on imports

MOSCOW. June 5 (Interfax) - Russia's Agriculture Ministry has lowered its apple harvest forecast for this year to 1.5 million tonnes due to freezing weather in May that damaged over 13,500 hectares of perennial fruit and berry orchards, Agriculture Minister Oksana Luth said at a meeting that President Vladimir Putin held with cabinet members on Tuesday.

"We won't be left without apples due to the frost, will we?" the president asked.

Luth said the apple harvest had been expected to increase to 1.8 million tonnes this year from 1.7 million tonnes in 2023, but then the cold snap hit. "And apples are the main type of product that the frost affected. Therefore, we're lowering the forecast to 1.5 million tonnes," she said.

The governor of one of Russia's leading apple growing regions, Lipetsk, Igor Artamonov said at the meeting that there was a record harvest last year.

"This year we planned a significant increase. But, unfortunately, there's an understanding that we lost over 60% of the harvest. According to a preliminary estimate, the total amount of losses [in the region's farming sector] is 3 billion rubles, of which fruit and berry plantings account for 2 billion rubles," Artamonov said.

In light of this, work has begun on the issue of importing apples, Luth said. "We started doing this ahead of time so that this does not have any impact on the price situation," she said.

She said it is possible to increase imports from Azerbaijan, Belarus and Serbia. "We have reserves in Iran and Turkey, which produce a large amount of apples. We've begun discussing supplies to Russia with colleagues, she said.

"But we'll see, maybe southern regions will add apple volumes this season. Then we'll calculate the difference that we need to supply the domestic market. But we will do this ahead of time, of course," Luth said.

"I hope that all measures to support agricultural producers, to carry out the actions necessary to acquire the relevant goods through imports will be taken in good time. Don't delay anything, so that this does not lead to any jumps in prices on the domestic market," Putin said.

He also called for more active development of domestic production and stimulus for investment in this sector. Asked by the president about the share of Russian apples on the domestic market, Luth said it is 44%. The food security doctrine calls for increasing this figure to 60% by 2030.

"Why wait until 2030? It seems to me that everything needs to be done faster. We need to create the appropriate conditions, work with the government's economic team, with the Finance Ministry. Create the conditions so that investment flows faster. We have all the conditions for this. The main thing is to create the economic conditions. Think again on this," Putin said.