Astrakhan region in southern Russia may become the main supplier of cotton for the country’s light manufacturing industry, challenging foreign-made cotton on the domestic market.
Investment of at least ten billion roubles is needed for the sector next year, a visiting session of the Russian agriculture ministry on development of cotton farming in Russia heard.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Alexander Petrikov told a gathering of agrarians and scientists that the immediate aim was “to create a technological map, design the whole chain, assess costs and make calculations as to alternative use of land. Only then will it be possible to discuss a cluster for growing and processing cotton (in the region),” Petrikov said.
Russia’s light manufacturing industry faced a deficit in raw materials and almost all cotton in Russia was currently imported. That was why, the minister said, “development of cotton production is a strategically important project”.
Local agrarians say special seeds have been cultivated in the region, adapted to the climate, and manual labour is practically not-existent there. Special irrigation is applied and cotton plants are sprayed with fertilizers. As a result, plants produce good crops and cotton bolls begin opening already on the 93rd day.
“If we compare Uzbek and Astrakhan cotton on the very same day (of growing), the difference is big, and our cotton is much better,” cotton grower Vassily Fursov said. He said he had spent about 600,000 roubles on growing 16 hectares of cotton.
Fursov is not only planning to recoup his outlay, but to earn the same amount of money. He already has contracts and next year will seed an area of 265 hectares, ready also to increase the area to 1,000 hectares with the support of state and local authorities.
But just growing large volumes of cotton will be extremely inexpedient, specialists say. The industry will be profitable only if a processing enterprise is opened. The general director of Rozhdesvenskaya Manufactory, Maxim Kozlov, estimates full-cycle production at a ten billion rouble sum that must be invested within the next two years. Plans are to sow cotton on an area of 120,000 hectares against 80 hectares in three districts at present.
By October, a working group is to develop a growing project with figures and forecasts.