Voice of Russia | 5 September 2012
APEC Secretary General: Russia's Far East can prevent food crisis in Asia
A string of regional forums of the Asia-Pacific Economic Organization (APEC) continues in Vladivostok. On Thursday, top APEC businessmen will gather to discuss a host of economic matters, and Saturday will be the first day of the organization’s annual summit with food security expected to be among the highlights as Russia emerges as a key player in food crisis prevention.
APEC Secretary General Eduardo Pedrosa believes that Russia has every opportunity to become Asia’s chief food supplier. A more efficient use of its agricultural potential will, in Mr. Pedrosa’s opinion, enable Russia to help Asian countries tackle their food problems. Experts agree that agriculture may become a springboard to growth for far-eastern Russia. Boris Heyfets, a researcher at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, feels that many businessmen would be willing to invest in large-scale agrarian projects in the Far East.
"Without a doubt, soy and grain crops, and vegetables may be grown there, contributing to alterations in the structure of the food market and satiating Asian markets with food. If this agricultural production is tax-free, if it enjoys some privileges, it will be very attractive for investors. All the more so, since many Asian countries need more food - not only Asian-Pacific nations, but Central Asian countries as well. They too should benefit from lease opportunities. As for Asian-Pacific nations – these are, above all, China, Vietnam, and North and South Korea."
The APEC secretary general reminded reporters that food security would dominate the APEC summit’s agenda. One of the burning issues is how to create logistics circuits that would bring food costs down. Yet, perfect as though the future transport-logistic infrastructure may be, one question will remain – what to transport and where food will come from. Analysts are warning of a looming food crisis, while on the other hand, pointing to plenty of land, uncultivated but fit for farming, in the Russian Far East. A number of agrarian projects have already been launched there in cooperation with China and North Korea. But they are a drop in the ocean, compared to the existing cooperation potential. Alexei Kuzmin, Chairman of the National Prospects Expert Council, thinks that a climate factor should not be disregarded.
"Russia is a fairly big player on the global food market. It would only be quite natural if it focuses on Asian markets. Certainly, from the agrarian point of view, the Far East is not an ideal region. So I would recommend focusing more on Western and Eastern Siberia where higher productivity and higher crop yields may bring about a sharp increase in production."
APEC Secretary General Eduardo Pedrosa is convinced that cooperation with Russia will be extremely helpful to Asian countries in addressing their food concerns. It remains to be seen what the APEC leaders have to offer each other on these and other topics when the meet in Vladivostok this weekend.