''I produced sunflower oil Novichok in response to the demands of the West to admit''
Aleksey Yakushev, an entrepreneur from Ulyanovsk, tells about environmentally friendly naming, orders from England and his farm
The joke of Aleksey Yakushev, an entrepreneur from Ulyanovsk Oblast, Russia, has provoked a heated discussion in social networks — in response to Skripal case the farmer produced a batch of sunflower oil called Novichok. Realnoe Vremya contacted the businessman and asked him about whether the joke helped to promote the products, whether he was going to supply it abroad, as well as whether farmers in Ulyanovsk Oblast live well and whether import substitution in Russia has succeeded.
''They contacted us and we are thinking over how to supply the oil to England''
Aleksey, why Novichok? What did you mean by that?
It all began with the change of the design of the bottle of our oil Nikolskoe. We needed a new label, and we did two versions: one that was indicating our eco farm Yakushev, and the second I decided to make original to please my friends.
Last week, the exhibition ''Made in Ulyanovsk Oblast'' took place, where we presented our oil with a new label for cheering up. The batch was limited, but due to the feverish demand, I decided to produce another one.
In the first batch, if I am not mistaken, there were about one thousand bottles. How much are you going to produce this time?
The first batch was sold out on the very first day. People specially came to the exhibition to buy our oil. This time, I think, we will produce more, but I won't call an exact figure — the final decision hasn't been made yet.
Currently, we see a lot of applications for this product, including in the online store. By the way, people from abroad also want to buy it — people contacted us, and we are now thinking about how to send the oil to England.
''It all began with the change of the design of the bottle of our oil Nikolskoe. We needed a new label, and we did two versions: one that was indicating our eco farm Yakushev, and the second I decided to make original to please my friends.'' Photo: youtube.com
If to be honest, is it a thought-over PR campaign or ''impulse of soul''?
No, it's not a thought-over marketing move. I'm just a creative person. In general, in my opinion, agriculture can't do without it: every year is different, unpredictable, plus we are in the zone of risky agriculture, so the sense of humour should always be present. There is no PR campaign here — it's just my joke.
A joke that arose in the wake of the international scandal. Aleksey, what do you personally think about the incident in Salisbury?
I see how it all develops — all this nonsense, when they accuse us, without presenting evidence, demand to admit that we have this Novichok, when we make excuses and say that we have long eliminated all chemical weapons, and they respond: ''No, you did not.'' On this wave I came up with the idea. If they want to see this Novichok, I'll make it.
''It is associated not with poison, but with that all this nonsense has been answered with even greater nonsense''
Weren't you afraid to scare off the buyer? The association is still with a poison, not with organic oil.
In my opinion, there is a different association — not a poison, but the fact that all this nonsense has been responded with even greater nonsense. They demanded to admit that we have some chemical weapon, and in response I decided to produce environmentally friendly, natural sunflower oil.
In your opinion, have people understood the joke?
Many reacted positively to this. I cheered up many people. By the way, my friend told me that his foreign comrades also took the joke positively. Of course, there are those who are trying to troll, but what can I say? One cannot please everyone.
If to sum up, how has all this situation affected your business? Perhaps, you have noticed some positive changes?
I would note that my business is not only sale of sunflower oil. The main thing is the production of environmentally friendly products: we grow wheat, barley, sunflower seeds. Oil production is the final stage, and if suddenly people started buying it a little more actively, then, of course, it affects my economy positively.
''I have been working in this field for 10 years and came to the farm by chance: my wife is from the village of Nikolskoe-na-Cheremshane, and at one point I just decided to buy a plot for a dacha there.'' Photo: nikofermer.ru
Could you tell us more about your farm?
I have 1,600 hectares of land, machinery, tractors, combines. The farm is a crop farm, and now we are preparing for spring field work — we will sow sunflower and barley.
I have been working in this field for 10 years and came to the farm by chance: my wife is from the village of Nikolskoe-na-Cheremshane, and at one point I just decided to buy a plot for a dacha there. Further — more, and now I have a farm instead of a dacha. My role was also played by the fact that I won a grant — I added my money to it and established a butter factory.
I like agriculture with its uniqueness and nature. Most of the time you spend in the fresh air, in the fields… Plus, creativity is close to me, and in this area every day is unique.
''A disaster awaits Russia if we do not develop agriculture''
Is it difficult to be a farmer in Ulyanovsk Oblast?
It is difficult to be a farmer everywhere — almost in any region, except, maybe, Krasnodar, because there is no zone of risky agriculture. It is a hard work, plus you are never sure that it grows — you perfectly know what weather conditions there are in Russia.
Without support in this area, of course, it is difficult. In the West, farmers are provided with great support — it is ten times greater than ours, which makes it difficult for us to compete with them. This greatly affects the development of the economy.
As for support in particularly Ulyanovsk Oblast, I cannot say that we are not supported here — this is not true. Yes, of course, we would like the support to be more, but this is still a question to the federal authorities.
''In the West, farmers are provided with great support — it is ten times greater than ours, which makes it difficult for us to compete with them.'' Photo: facebook.com/pg/nikofermer
What is the situation with sales of products?
This year it is an extremely troublesome topic. It all started with that last autumn we grew a very large crop, and the price of wheat and barley fell 1,5-2 times. Money in the economy decreased in proportion to the collapse.
In general, to date it is not agricultural enterprises that earn, but traders — sellers of grain for export. All profits go to them, and it settles abroad. As a result, our producers buy less cultivators, tractors, get more mired in debt. This is already a fait accompli, and there's no escaping it.
Fortunately, I have no loans, so I feel more or less well, however, we are not going to expand this year (to build new hangars and so on). We have to live within our means, and at the moment they are definitely not enough for such a rapid development that we had in past years. Will have to develop more slowly.
Aleksey, has import substitution in Russian been successful? Did this course have a positive impact on you?
Yes, the import substitution has had a very positive impact on us. People have finally thought about what domestic agriculture is and what is necessary for it. This gave a great impetus for development. However, many problems have not been solved: counterfeit, palm oil, the ''hole'' in Belarus, through which Polish and Ukrainian products are transported. At the initial stage, farmers, of course, won, because a stream of smuggling from Belarus is a little shallow, but at the moment it has gained such momentum that the entire initial effect came to naught.
I would like to stress that agriculture should be developed at least because we have a real demographic gap in our villages. In Ulyanovsk Oblast, as well as in Tatarstan and other regions — the villages are getting abandoned. If you do not take any drastic measures now, then in 10 years we will get absolutely abandoned villages.
''Agriculture should be developed at least because we have a real demographic gap in our villages. In Ulyanovsk Oblast, as well as in Tatarstan and other regions — the villages are abandoned.'' Photo: facebook.com/pg/nikofermer
Currently, in Ulyanovsk Oblast, in the villages, on one born there are three deceased. The situation can be changed only through the establishment of production in villages — agricultural products, processing and so on. Holdings will not solve this problem. It is extremely important to develop small and medium-sized businesses in rural areas, farms, small farms. Russia will face a disaster if this is not done.