Could Russia Feed The World? - July, 2008

Could Russia Feed The World?

July, 2008

In an area known as the 'Black Earth Belt' a farming revolution is underway. Investors from Russia and abroad are buying up huge chunks of land. The farms are simply massive. They make large farms in the UK look more like allotments. A group of British investors have bought into the new land rush. Heartland Farms now has 75,000 acres in its portfolio. About half of that is being cultivated - the rest is being cleared for use. Heartland Farms currently grows sugar beet, potatoes, barley, wheat and rapeseed. The opportunities, though, are endless, according to operations director Colin Hinchley. "You have such a large land mass that is underutilised.

There are some very good Russian farms but the bigger areas are really not at the production levels they could be. That requires investment and management. But the potential to feed Europe and a large part of the world is here." Experts believe Russia could really be instrumental in feeding the world. High-tech farming methods being imported into Russia and are beginning to bear fruit. And that is something borne out in the figures. With calorific consumption going up around the world as developing countries get richer, Russia could be about to cash in on its booming agricultural sector. Hinchley says: "Farming in Russia - not just on a domestic level, because it's a huge consumption area in its own right - has the potential to double or triple its exports in five or six years time." During the old days of the USSR, the black earth belt was called the 'Bread basket of the Soviet Union.' It produced enough grain to export large quantities around the world. But after the fall of communism the farming industry collapsed.

Fields that once grew grains became knots of weeds. A new entrepreneurial spirit is now taking root and reversing the trend. Russia is vast - the largest country in the world. High-tech farming methods are now being imported into Russia and are beginning to bear fruit. Heartland Farms chief agronomist, Victor Nageyev, said: "Russia has this black soil - it's another resource just like oil and gas. The land, plus new technologies, should make Russia a world leader again in grain production and exports. Just like it was at the beginning of last century." Global warming may also be helping; the Russian climate can be extreme but shorter winters and more rainfall have meant bumper harvests over the last few years. Experts believe that with the right investment Russia could really be instrumental in feeding the world.


In other news:

Russia's Uranium Breakthrough

Russia has overtaken Niger to become the world's fourth largest uranium producer, after Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan. Russia received its new rating in 2007, when it produced 3,527 tons of uranium. It has ambitious plans to mover even further up the league, based on promising deposits in Eastern Siberia and other regions, and opportunities for mutually advantageous cooperation with countries rich in uranium ore. Today, the uranium market is very busy and full of optimism. It is characterized by a high-level of monopolization - three quarters of all uranium is produced by five countries. Having placed its stake on nuclear energy, Russia has left itself no choice but to replenish its uranium reserves under a clear-cut and rational program. In 2006, Russia launched cooperation with Kazakhstan. It owns 49% of shares in the Zarechnoye Joint Venture (JV), which is in charge of a 19,000-ton uranium deposit. Last year, Russia signed a bilateral agreement with Australia, which will supply it with one million dollars worth of uranium for civilian purposes every year.

Also last year, Russia set up joint ventures with Canada's Cameco Corporation to undertake uranium prospecting and extraction in both countries. Potential for uranium production has also been assessed in Armenia; and Russia and Armenia have signed an agreement on uranium prospecting and production. Mongolia may also occupy a major place in the global nuclear industry. In theory, its uranium resources are the biggest in the world, and it only remains to explore and produce them. Russia's state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, will have to work hard to guarantee the steady growth of its nuclear industry. Expansion is encouraged by uranium prices that are growing even faster than those for oil and gold.

The world is not short of uranium. On the contrary, nature has preordained a future atomic renaissance. Experts believe that there are billions of tons of uranium ore in the entrails of the earth - much more than silver or mercury. It was the nuclear industry that stood behind the dazzling career of the modest 92nd element in Mendeleyev's Periodic Table, having invented technologies that release enormous amounts of energy from it. Against the background of the global energy crisis, this soft, silver-white metal has become highly precious. One cubic centimeter of uranium is equivalent to 60,000 liters of gasoline, 110-160 tons of coal, or almost 60,000 cubic meters of natural gas. The Priargun mining and dressing plant in the city of Krasnokamensk in the Chita Region in Russia's Far East produces 93% of Russia's uranium. The deposit's proven reserves are estimated at 150,000 tons, with 2,500-3,000 tons mined annually using expensive conventional methods. Another seven percent are extracted more cheaply by underground leaching in the Kurgan Region (Dalur), and the Republic of Buryatia (Khiagda). These deposits are enough to meet the national demand for uranium, but this is about it.

Meanwhile, Russia has to supply uranium to nuclear power plants that were built abroad in Soviet times, and it also has export contracts for uranium enrichment and processing. If we take into account all these factors, the gap between demand and supply adds up to 6,000 tons a year. Russia currently makes up for the shortfall with uranium from "secondary reserves" - depots of fissionable materials, converted nuclear weapons, and so-called "depleted uranium tails" (uranium ore used twice). But these secondary reserves, which every nuclear power has stockpiled since the start of the nuclear era, are disappearing fast. They will last no more than 10 or 15 years. Aware of the situation, Russia is building up its uranium ore production. The process is carried out by Rosatom's uranium monopoly, Atomredmetzoloto. This year, the company plans to produce 3,880 tons of uranium, bringing its extraction to 20,000 tons by 2024.

Russia has some 564,000 tons of proven uranium reserves, including its biggest deposit at Elkon (344,000 tons) on the shores of the Aldan River in the north of Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). This deposit is hard to access; it is located in permafrost, and the ore lies deep. But the requirements of the nuclear Renaissance are tough and call for extreme efforts. Russia wants to extract no less than 5,000 tons of uranium from the Elkon deposit by 2020. At the same time, it is planning to increase uranium production at its joint ventures in Kazakhstan. Experts believe that Russia's total uranium potential (natural and weapons-grade) will enable it to enrich 45% of the world's uranium for nuclear power plants by the year 2030.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

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