Voronezh has hosted an Agri-Food Forum, where one of the key topics discussed was the development of agriculture in the region and the country in general. Organic food producers, representatives of the certifying companies and supervisory authorities as well as farmers interested in this field took part in the event.
The President of EkoNiva Group Stefan Duerr, the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Elena Dybova, the Executive Director of National Organic Union Oleg Mironenko, and the Director of Kiwa BCS Franc Rumpe swelled the ranks of the invited speakers.
‘Voronezh oblast is high on the list of regions with great agricultural potential’, says Sergey Trukhachev, Deputy Governor. In the Central Federal District, it is at the leading edge of the production of cereals, sugar beet, and sunflower. Processing is being developed. Customer needs and competition pose new challenges to us and at the same time open up new horizons. In this respect, to support the local farmers we are planning to dole out about 7.7 billion rubles. And we are ready to offer assistance to promising organic production as well.
The Governor Aleksandr Gusev sent a greeting letter to the delegates, in which he highlighted that the provincial government considers agricultural complexes as a driver of the regional economics. Organic farming is one of the undisputed sources of further development of the farming sector. According to the Governor, in the foreseeable future this line of business will become a real breakthrough and a new hallmark of the region.
Stefan Duerr told the audience about EkoNiva’s experience in organic food production and its short-term plans.
‘In 1996, EkoNiva was the first company represented organic buckwheat and millet at the exhibition BioFach in Germany’, says the company president. ‘All our production was oriented to export. We didn’t even give a thought to coming onto the domestic market, for which at that time the organic novelties were a step ahead of the demand. People lacked just food staples, much less organic products. Today difficulties still arise, but it is crystal clear for everyone no matter how lean the times are the quality of products always deserves special attention. I’m very glad that organic production steals the spotlight again. Even 7-8 years ago, we anticipated that this business stream would definitely awaken interest. That is why in 2012 production of organic beef and cereals was launched at our farm Savinskay Niva (Kaluga oblast). Last year, in order to supply customers with organic food we certified 5.5 thousand hectares in Orenburg oblast. Besides, we are planning to begin organic milk production at the dairy in Divnogorye village (Voronezh oblast).
Stefan Duerr assumes that organic food producers in Russia have an advantage over their foreign competitors due to lower expenses on acquisition or lease of land, fuel, seeds, and other expenditures. However, the Russian farmers lack experience and knowledge and in the short run it will be necessary to work on educating consumers and earning their trust. According to the President of EkoNiva, National Organic Union gives farmers invaluable help.
At the plenary meeting of the forum, the Executive Director of Savinskaya Niva Anatoliy Nakaryakov shared the experience of developing organic production at the dairy. Today the territory the company works on amounts to 6,000 hectares. Since 2016 the enterprise has exported organic cereals to Germany, since 2017 – organic beef to the Russian factory of HiPP, a German producer of baby food. This year, plans are afoot to start organic milk production.
‘With regard to the number of the participants of the plenary meeting and the guests interested in the field, it was one of the large-scale forums’, sums up Oleg Mironenko, Executive Director of National Organic Union. ‘It clearly indicates how attentive to the development of agriculture Voronezh oblast is. Today numerous companies are at the stage of making the decision whether to get involved in the new sphere or not. Not all of them fully understand what they head for. Our goal is to answer the vexed questions taking EkoNiva as an example and reaching out to the experts. The held forum has become one of the first considerable steps in achieving the important target.’
In the lounge of the conference-hall of the hotel Mariott hosted the forum, the guests and participants of the meeting sampled fresh natural products at EkoNiva’s booth. The company plied the audience with its delectable milk, kefir, sour cream, butter, and curds.
By Aleksandr KUTISHCHEV