Organic Farms Become a Winner in Putin’s Feud with the West
MOSCOW - Boris Akimov's cellphone, which quacks like a duck, started to sound like a whole flock soon after President Vladimir V. Putin imposed sweeping food sanctions barring many Western imports last August.
November 18, 2014 | Source: The New York Times | by Neil MacFarquhar
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MOSCOW – Boris Akimov’s cellphone, which quacks like a duck, started to sound like a whole flock soon after President Vladimir V. Putin imposed sweeping food sanctions barring many Western imports last August.
Major Russian grocery chains, desperate to find new suppliers, tracked down Mr. Akimov, the founder of Russia‘s fledgling farm-to-table movement, to ask urgent supply questions. How many chickens and eggs could he provide, they wanted to know, and could he deliver 100 tons of cheese, say, immediately.
Mr. Akimov, 36, who has a heavy beard and an infectious grin, had to turn them away – his 100 farmers produce nowhere near the amounts requested. LavkaLavka, the organic farm cooperative he and a friend set up about five years ago, sells between six and 12 tons of artisanal cheese annually, for example.
“The main thing which the sanctions have already changed is in people’s minds – in government, in business and on the streets, they have started to think more about where their food comes from,” Mr. Akimov said in an interview in his new, homey restaurant in central Moscow, where the light fixtures are sawed-off milk cans painted red. “If the sanctions give a chance to develop local farmers, to develop sustainable agriculture, it is very good. But I am not sure it will happen.”
In August, Russia banned all beef, pork, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway for one year, retaliating for Western economic sanctions imposed after the Kremlin destabilized Ukraine.
Senior leaders, starting with Mr. Putin, heralded food sanctions as a chance for Russians to finally stock their larders with homegrown products. Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister, released a “road map” for agriculture last month. “The aim of our efforts is to increase our own agricultural produce and to reduce Russia’s dependence on food imports,” he said.
But the content of the road map was basically “watch this space,” with new agricultural policies promised by the end of 2015.