In Moscow we have the chance to meet Vladimir Scharnin. He is president of Rossvinprom, the Russian association of pig producers. The meeting takes place at a good time. V.L. Scharnin is ready to express an extremely strong opinion about prospects for pig production in Russia. In his view, exceptional growth can be expected from this sector of Russian agriculture over the next 4-5 years.
"In spite of the fact that we produced almost 300 000 tons more pork in 2007 compared to 2006, Russian pig producers had to face many problems last year," he begins. "The biggest of them were that pig prices fell because of high levels of pork imports at the end of 2006 and the wheat price more than doubled.
"Nevertheless, thanks to our technical and genetic efforts, we improved the quality of the final product in 2007 and even managed to produce more than had been forecast. Numerous new farms and pig complexes have been constructed or renovated. But we know that the return on these investments does not take 2 or 3 years to complete, it is 10 years.
"Our goal is to increase the consumption of pigmeat per inhabitant. At present it is no more than 15 kilograms per person as an annual average. This can be much higher, we see even 30kg/person by the year 2012.
"We believe this meat will be supplied by Russia's own farms and not imported. In fact, the goal which has been set by our association Rossvinprom for 2012 is to achieve a national production of 3.5 million tons of pork per year.
"We do not ask for any financial help from the Russian government. The target can be reached by our producers from their own resources. However, we emphasise the need for support in our working conditions so that we do not have to endure the pressures brought on us by grain farmers and meat importers."
Mr Scharnin quotes from the association's magazine Svinovodstvo to underline what a target of 3.5 million tons/year will mean for Russia. From national data it seems that the country began 2008 with 18.2 million pigs on its farms, which would be 6.2% more than at the start of 2007. In some regions, the growth of the pig population was considerably higher. Increases were recorded of +19% for Central Russia, +16.6% for the Russian Far East and +9.3% for Siberia.
Russia's state statistics committee has calculated that new or modernised capacity for accommodating 644 500 pigs was put into operation on farms nationally in 2007, a big increase from the 2006 total of additional capacity for 196 600 pigs. According to Svinovodstvo, Mr Scharvin tells us, no fewer than 150 new pig complexes should be created in Russia by 2012.
Their effect is predicted to be dramatic. A Russian output of about 1.9 million tons of pork in 2007 may increase on forecasts to at least 1.95 million tons this year. But the contrast between producing approximately 2 million tons at present and aiming for 3.7 million tons in 2012 could not be more clear. The suggestion being made is that a big leap in volumes can be expected once the newly constructed pig complexes come on stream, enough to lift the annual tonnage by 75% in less than 5 years. PIGI