Russia’s grain harvest is set to grow by some five million tons annually because of the recent incorporation of four Russian-majority Ukrainian territories, Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said this week.
“Considering the fertile soil that exists there, I think at least five million tons of grain will be added to the Russian overall production. I also think that we’ll get other crops,” Patrushev was quoted by the Moscow news agency TASS.
The Kremlin said that President Vladimir Putin had signed the bills on Tuesday, annexing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, representing about 18% of Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.
All are partly or mostly occupied by Russian forces after the February military invasion that has sharply reduced Ukraine’s grain crop and disrupted shipping in the Black Sea, as well as triggering a barrage of Western criticism and economic sanctions against Russia.
The resulting disruptions to grain and fertilizer flows, augmented by sanctions, have triggered the worst food security shortfall in at least 14 years, with some 345 million people facing life-threatening shortages, the International Monetary Fund said last Friday.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories it has seized. Russia denies this.
Russia declared the annexations after holding what it called referendums in the occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
Moscow’s Agriculture Ministry said last August that Russia might not reach its expected harvest of 130 million tons of grain this year due to weather factors and a lack of spare parts for foreign farming equipment, and might have to review plans to export 50 million tons of grains and oilseeds.