Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The missing cattle mystery...

There is something that has been bothering me for a while. 

Over the last two years, we have ridden thousands of miles across Russia (west, southern and central Siberia), flew over it twice, and crossed it on the trans-siberian train too... And yet, everywhere we went, I never saw a farm, any  crops, or any animal farm anywhere! No chickens running around in the villages, no cows, sheep, pigs, horses or goats grazing around in the fields, and no fields as we know it anyway, only dense forest or waste land of wild flowers. Sure , everyone seems to have a small vegetable plot, but no animals....

The only exception was a reindeer farm in the Altai, kept for the horns that sell for a fortune to the Chinese market as a remedy! 

Surely, from my history books there used to be many peasants in Russia, which means there were crops and animals.... And the Russians eat a lot of meat, and lots of eggs! So.... What is going on? 

Why are the fields empty, why is there not even a couple of chickens running around in the villages?  Where are the crops? What are people on those villages doing there, if they are not farmers?  We saw plenty of logging ( they have plenty of forest so wood is big business) but that's about it, otherwise, complete wilderness....

So I checked the CIA website country files. For those not familiar,  there is a CIA website with fact files for every country of the world, including details of economic data. It is an interesting website but I did not find my answers there, I had to dig further, but with Alistair sick, I had some time today as we are not riding. 

So it appears that agriculture is still fairly  underdeveloped since collectivisation. At the heyday of collectivisation, the production of a Russian farm were only 10% that of a US modern farm ( comparing like to like). Currently production is in the Volga region mainly. Due to geography and climate, only 10% of Russia's land is suitable for crops. From what we xperienced, most land is sand, beneath the grass...

What remains of collective farms are set up as cooperatives. However, it seems that over 40% of food production, like potatoes, come from dacha plots... i.e. small vegetable plots that most Russians seem to own everywhere. So there, microproductions! 

Currently it seems Russia is near self sufficiency for most of its food, ( thanks to all those vegetables plots!) and,  following the international sanctions, Russia is now trying  to invest and become a net exporter of GM-free organic food by 2020. They certainly have the space and water necessary for it... ( source 

Still, where are the cows? 

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