I head of serious instances at the PMA Fresh Summit about Russian importers inquiring about U.S. potato imports.  In that vein, consider a seven page report from the USDA FAS details the agriculture situation in Russia. Check out the Oct. 26  Effects of the Summer Drought and Fires on Russian Agriculture.

Some excerpts:

Report Highlights:
Severe drought in European Russia affected over 30 percent of Russia’s grain sown area, and may result in a 10-percent overall decrease in agricultural production in 2010 on a yearly basis. Imports of agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, and meat may increase to meet consumer demand in metropolitan areas. However, increased domestic prices of grains, oilseeds, meat, dairy and some other staple products may stimulate farmers to intensify production and increase productivity in the coming year.

The Russian government forecasts a 10-percent reduction in agriculture production in 2010 because of the weather [i] . The drought caused losses on over 17 percent of all planted acreage, including over 30 percent of grain sown area. According to Rosstat [ii] , agricultural production (in value terms, in comparable prices) already decreased in January – August 2010 by 5.7 percent compared with the same period last year.

The drought caused a reduction in production of all major Russian crops, such as grain, sunflower seeds, potatoes, vegetables and fodder grasses. The official crop data is not yet available, but experts estimate that in 2010 Russia will harvest 37 percent less grain, 24 percent less potatoes, 7 percent less vegetables, and 10 percent less sunflower seeds than in 2009.

The Government has tried to calm rumors of a feed shortage by frantically imposing a grain export ban. However, stubborn merchants continue to hold onto their grain and cattle slaughter has started, but was not significant so far, and primarily happens at private households in the drought affected provinces. As of the end of August the total number of cattle decreased by 2.4 percent from the same date the previous year, while meat production (mostly as a result of cattle slaughter) increased by 7.3 percent in January – August 2010 compared with the same period in the previous year.

The number of dairy cows decreased by 1.6 percent and resulted in the 1.2 percent decrease in milk production. Fifty-one percent of sheep and goats are held by private households, but many of them still hope that feeding sheep and goats will be easier than feeding cattle, and the number of sheep and goats decreased by only 1.5 percent on a year-to-year basis. Sixty-four percent of swine production is concentrated in large-scale farms and the feed shortage has not yet affected these farms. The total number of pigs in the country increased by 0.7 percent by the end of August compared with the same date a year ago.

Drought- Affected Production of Other Crops in European Russia
Other crops that suffered from the drought in European Russia are fodder crops, grasses, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables. Production of potatoes, Russia’s second staple food product after bread, is forecast to decrease by 30 percent from last year to 22 MMT [vii] . However, recently the government lifted import duties on potatoes, cabbage and buckwheat, and expects potato imports to increase up to 4 MMT.

Consumption of fruits and vegetable in Russia is still lagging behind consumption in the developed countries, and some shortage of fruits and vegetables for consumers in the metropolitan area may be filled by imports. The drought drastically decreased grasses and some other fodder crops in European Russia, including regions with high milk and meat (cattle and pigs) production. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that as of September 8, 2010, Russia was lagging behind last year by 3.7 MMT in procurement of so called rough feeds, such as hay, silage, and straw compared with 38.6 MMT in 2009. Procurement of so called “succulent feeds”, such as green-chop, root crops, etc. decreased from last year by 6.7 MMT to 17.0 MMT.