Harvest 2020 in Tatarstan: “The crop condition is better than ever”

The ministry of agriculture and food of the republic of Tatarstan has budgeted 100 million rubles for compensation of crop insurance, but farmers don't want to increase the size of the insured fields and don't believe in drought

Tatarstan farmers assess the forecasts for the harvest this year positively. Due to the prolonged spring, almost 95% of winter crops in Tatarstan are being in a satisfactory condition, and the moisture reserves in the soil are expected to be even higher than the average annual values by the summer, according to the ministry of agriculture and food of the Republic of Tatarstan. Due to conflicting climate forecasts, farmers are still recommended to insure spring crops against losses, but agricultural enterprises are not in a hurry to purchase an insurance policy, considering it useless because it is impossible to get compensation. Realnoe Vremya has investigated the situation.

Tatarstan soil is saturated enough

Winter crops have “survived” the abnormally warm weather quite favourably, and the company that started sowing spring crops in the republic promises to bring a harvest at the level of 2019. Such an optimistic forecast for the gross grain harvest is given by the ministry of agriculture of Tatarstan, excluding the probability of a repeat of the cataclysm due to a possible dry summer of 2020.

“We are not considering that Tatarstan can face drought so far," said the press service of the Tatarstan ministry of agriculture. “Most likely, probable heat can threaten southern regions of the country. According to the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, in the first decade of March, the air temperature was 7-12°C above normal, and in the southern half of the territory, precipitation was low (less than 10 mm). In the agricultural regions of Tatarstan in the first decade of March, the weather was also warmer than usual, but a lot of precipitation fell. According to our estimates, most of the area is being in a satisfactory condition, vegetation is normal, and there is enough moisture in the soil. If in May its level is estimated at 36 mm, in June — 63 mm, in July — 64 mm. A slight decrease in moisture level will occur in August — 56 mm," he argued in the press service of the Tatarstan ministry of agriculture and food.

Meanwhile, the Hydrometcenter of Russia forecasts temperatures above average for the year. However, it's not about summer. “Maybe the year will not be record warm, but the second in the range of temperatures or the third...” said the scientific director of the Hydrometcenter of Russia, Roman Vilfand. “The fact that there will be a high temperature is certain. With a 99 per cent probability, it will be among the five hottest years.” At the same time, he added that every year climatologists expect records from each of the next five years. “Average temperatures over the five-year period will be higher and higher. Temperatures have been rising for five consecutive five-year periods," he said. In his opinion, this is a consequence of global warming.

According to the ministry of agriculture of the Republic of Tatarstan, the total area of crops is 2,8 million hectares. Out of these, 1,52 million hectares are given under cereals and legumes, including winter cereals — 486,700 hectares, spring cereals — 1,038,500 hectares. 6,600 hectares are given under potatoes and vegetables.

“Quite often, these forecasts do not come true”

Kamiyar Baytemirov, the head of the Farmers' Association, says that “the state of crops is better than ever”. “Although we are preparing for different weather conditions, significant funds are allocated for a full-fledged sowing campaign. But, as the saying goes, put your trust in God, but keep your powder dry.”

Director General of Tatagrokhimservis Nail Gubaydullin believes that the acreage will withstand adverse climatic load. “This year we will plant 12,000 hectares of spring land in four districts of Tatarstan — Buinsky, Drozhzhanovsky, Cheremshansky and Rybno-Slobodsky. We understand that it is impossible to predict the whims of nature. But the winter areas survived perfectly, the weather was wonderful. For a stable vegetation of plants, we use mineral fertilizers everywhere. Thirty kilogrammes per hectare is subsidized through the ministry of agriculture of the Republic of Tatarstan. These protective measures help to resist any conditions. We expect that the harvest will be 3-4 centners higher than the average for the republic. My forecast is 50,000 tonnes per hectare," he vouched for the future crop.

The head of the Baltasinsky district of Tatarstan, Ramil Nutfullin, is sure that the grain harvest will take place in “normal climatic weather”, although they are “ready for anything”. Winter crops have been sown here and the spring sowing campaign has been started — the total area is 70,000 hectares. “We stopped sowing for a week because of the rains, but we will make up for it during the May holidays," he says.

Shamanic predictions are better

Most of all, Tatarstan farmers listen to the forecasts of the local “shaman”, Amir Sharafiev, who lives in the rural settlement of Yangulovo in the Baltasinsky district of the Republic of Tatarstan, who is called simply Amir-babay. His observations, which are based on weather lore, completely differ from the official forecasts of the Hydrometcenter of Russia. In the conversation with Realnoe Vremya, he confirmed that the summer will be comfortable for the villagers, and the average temperature in the republic in June-July will not exceed 18-19 degrees. Only in August it can be hot and without rain.

“The prolonged spring will leave in early May. From about May 3 to may 7, the weather should improve noticeably, and as soon as the swallows arrive, it will become warm. But it will not be as hot as last year, when the temperature reached 34 degrees in May," he believes. “It's going to be a rainy month. It is bad that the rains will begin in the middle of the month, when the sowing season is actively underway. The average temperature in June-July will not exceed 18 degrees, maybe it will be cooler than last summer. But August will be hot, which is bad for growing potatoes. The harvest will clearly be less," he predicts.

Agropolises do not germinate in Tatarstan

Knowing about the inconsistency of forecasts, the ministry of agriculture and food of the Republic of Tatarstan recommends farmers to insure their crops. One hundred million rubles have been budgeted for this purpose: the budget of the Republic of Tatarstan — 42 million rubles, and the budget of the Russian Federation — million rubles. “Agricultural insurance is a real opportunity for farmers to conduct stable activities and forecast their income in advance without fear of adverse weather conditions. This is especially important for the regions of risky agriculture, which include the republic," the press service of the ministry of agriculture and food noted. “For insurance of 1 ha of arable land, they need to pay only 26 rubles, so with an area of 100 hectares, an agricultural enterprise needs to pay only 2,600 rubles out of its pocket.”

However, the farmers are not in a hurry to do it, the head of the Baltasinsky district confirmed. According to him, so far no one in their district has received compensation in previous years, as it was necessary to prove that the crop failure threshold under the insurance contract was higher than 20%. “This policy is not credible," he said.

The ministry of agriculture of the Republic of Tatarstan reported that this year only 2,1% of the area of winter crops was insured for the harvest of 2020, or 62,200 hectares. The insurance plan for spring crops will amount to 170,000 hectares, or 6,2%. There are three insurance companies operating in the republic (Talisman JSC , RSHB-Strakhovanie, SK Soglasie PLC) that are part of NCA. For comparison, last year the total insured area was 240,119 ha, 62,202 ha of which was under winter crops and 177,997 ha — under spring crops. In other words, there is no increase in the area. But since March 2019, the threshold of crop loss of 20% has been cancelled, which left the farmer with nothing — the insurance payment was not entitled. The ministry of agriculture reminds that only those who had insured the area received compensation from the federal budget for the loss of winter crops in 2019.

By Luiza Ignatyeva