According to the head of the UN World Food Programme, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, humanity may again be facing the threat of hunger of biblical proportions. This danger, which for many years was considered unlikely, is caused not only by a temporary failure in global agro-production chains due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also by more systemic changes in the global economy.
Population growth heading for 9 to 10 billion people and increased consumption, especially in Asia, coupled with climate change and environmental degradation, have led an increasing number of countries to depend on food imports. World trade in grain alone — a key food commodity — has grown almost tenfold since the early 1970s, from about 60 to 600 million tons per year. Against this background, a real technological revolution began in agricultural production. Scientific achievements of the last 10 years in the field of biology (including a new generation of genetic editing tools), information technologies (including artificial intelligence and big data analysis), chemistry, soil science, etc., are rapidly finding application in agriculture. Venture capital investments in agricultural technologies have grown almost by a factor of ten over the past five years.
At the same time, the agri-sector is still the least digitized of the basic sectors of the world economy, and the achievements of modern biology, especially gene technologies, still find it difficult to traverse the threshold of social acceptance. How and in what direction will the world agri-food complex develop in relation to our country? The search for an answer immediately raises questions about both technological priorities and socio-economic and even geopolitical developments.
Today, the architecture of global agri-food markets is largely determined by a small group of leading multinational companies. So, a close oligopoly of global traders controls most of the world grain trade. A very similar situation has developed today in seed production and agrochemistry, in the production of fertilizers and modern agricultural machinery, in animal genetics and veterinary science, et cetera.
Russia, due to its natural and climatic conditions, as well as its geographical position in the heart of Eurasia, exhibits a unique potential to be a major player in the world food market, primarily in grain. Grain production in our country rested on the «glass ceiling» of 140-150 million tons per year, despite the fact that the opportunity to reach 200 or more million tons of annual production with a significant increase in our presence in world markets is absolutely real and is right in the realm of apt strategic choice, compared to the concept of restricting this resource. Russia, despite the task set by the President of the country to sharply increase agricultural exports by 2024, is not yet striving for the role of being a guarantor of food security in Greater Eurasia, but rather is situationally adjusting to the conditions of world agri-food markets.
Whether our country can make such a strategic choice and become an agri-food superpower that provides key supplies of agricultural products for the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and to some extent for China and South-East Asia, and what needs to be done to achieve such an objective, these are the main issues of the upcoming discussion.
— Alexey Ivanov, Director of the Skolkovo — HSE Institute for Law and Development, and Director of the International Center for Competition Law and Policy of the BRICS Countries, Scientific Director of the HSE Center for Technological Transfer
— Andrey Olegovich Bezrukov, President of the Security Export Association, Member of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Associate Professor of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems of MGIMO University under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
— Laurent Genzbittel, Head of the Agrolaboratorium, Skolkovsky Institute of Science and Technology, Professor, Toulouse National Polytechnic Institute (France)
— Edward Petrovich Zernin, Chairman of the Union of Grain Exporters, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bio-Ton
— Dmitry Mazepin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of OKHK URALKHIM JSC
— Mikhail Petrovich Orlov, head of the Danilovka Farm, leader of the Agrofinmost project, chairman of the Russian-Egyptian Business Council
— Khaled Hanafi, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Chambers of Commerce, former Minister of Food Supply of the Egypt
Issues under discussion
— Problems of the existing architecture of global agricultural markets, challenges of the new century;
— Russia’s current, potential and desired place in the global agricultural architecture;
— A close look at the potential of the Russian seed market and breeding achievements through the removal of administrative barriers and the creation of a competitive environment based on equal and transparent access to genetic materials and fundamental research;
— Building a digital platform to aid the mobilization and inclusion of small and medium-sized agricultural producers in the global market;
— Updating the infrastructure of the Russian agricultural complex
— Building direct strategic partnerships with importing countries on the principles of inclusive cooperation;
— Establishment of sustainable corridors for the supply of Russian grain and related products to consumers in the MENA region;
— «Shattering» bottlenecks preventing the increase of Russian agricultural exports.