Russia is a major global producer and exporter of grains. Figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that in 2020 Russia accounted for about 11 % of global wheat production and 19 % of global wheat exports (making Russia the world’s largest wheat exporter that year). In addition, Russia is a globally significant exporter of barley, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds.
Wheat was Russia’s top crop in 2021 (36 % of all land in Russia under cultivation was devoted to growing wheat), followed by sunflowers (12 %), tame hays and legumes for forage (12 %) and barley (10 %). Most grain production occurs in Russia’s European half. The Central Federal District, the Volga Federal District and the Southern Federal District together accounted for about 70 % of Russian grain production in 2021. Agricultural enterprises play a large role in grain production, as they cultivated about 64 % of the land devoted to wheat cultivation in 2021. The role of farms in production of certain grains is quite significant, while that of household production is small. Farms accounted for about 36 % of the land devoted to wheat production in 2021, while households accounted for less than 1 %. On the other hand, household plots accounted for about 76 % of Russia’s potato production and 63 % of vegetable production in 2021.
Russia plays an important role in global grain exports, particularly for countries in Africa and the Middle East. According to a March 2022 UNCTAD report, in over 20 African nations the share of Russia in their wheat imports was at least 30 %. The African nations most dependent on Russian wheat imports are Benin (100 %), Sudan (about 70 %), Ruanda (over 60 %), Tanzania (over 60 %) and Madagascar (over 60 %). Many Middle Eastern and African countries also import large amounts of grain from Ukraine.
Russia has blocked Ukraine’s grain exports by preventing Ukraine from shipping from its Black Sea ports. At the beginning of June 2022, Ukrainian officials estimated that Russia’s grain thefts from Ukraine had reached 500,000 metric tons, an amount worth 100 million dollars.
The world’s top ten wheat exporters in 2020 (share of total wheat exports globally)
Sources: FAO and BOFIT.