Nearly half of Russian farmland lies abandoned, according to research

Almost 100 million hectares of Russia’s farmlands – more than 40% of the total – is lying idle or completely abandoned, according to an analysis of the latest agricultural census, with vast swathes of once-fertile soil being reclaimed by nature and reverting to wasteland or forest. The research, carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) into last year’s Rosstat census, concludes that a combination of corruption and inefficient farming methods has seen the amount of land being used as orchards or pastures decline by 30% and 20% respectively.
According to the RAS, tens of millions of acres of land traditionally used for small-scale or subsistence farming are being completely neglected with even their ownership under question. “On the agricultural map of Russia, there are serious ‘white spots’, that is, areas where agricultural land is not assigned to  land users or assigned to land users who cannot be found  the census,” it claims.
The results will not make for happy reading in the Kremlin which has been on a mission to resuscitate Russia’s agricultural sector to make up for the deficit of food stuff triggered by the embargo it introduced on Western imports in retaliation  for the sanctions that were imposed following the annexation of Crimea four years ago. To some its extent it has succeeded, and although the broader economy has been in the grip of recession over the past two years, agricultural output has grown from $65bn in 2014 to $85bn in 2016; but while large agricultural concerns have prospered, the number of small farms and self-sufficient homesteads appears to be shrinking rapidly.
Although the state-owned disputes the RAS figures, even it puts the amount of unused farmland at 40m hectares, indicating that despite the efforts of successive post-Soviet governments to tackle land reform, deep-rooted issues still remain. In Russia’s provinces particularly, land has traditionally ranked along with the tax system as a huge source of control and patronage for local leaders and their friends. Federal government landholdings—belonging to ministries, the presidential administration, the armed forces and security services—are vast, largely secret and frequently exploited for the private convenience and profit of officials.
Plus ça change, it appears

Source: Gazeta