Far East Russia being farmed by Chinese
One of the largest foreign-invested agricultural projects in Russia is owned by Chinese businessman Li Deminwas. It began with a struggling pig farm in Russia’s Far East 14 years ago. This is just one of several agricultural operations in Russia controlled by Chinese firms.
Currently Li’s agricultural operation stretches over 40,000 hectares and is expected to expand further, Li's farm near Ussuriysk raises 30,000 pigs a year and grows soybeans and corn that are sold in local markets or shipped back to China.
Li asked for land to take on the project of buying and saving the pig farm. Li is chairman of the Dongning Huaxin Group, a private trading firm based in Heilongjiangprovince, China, asked for 500 hectares of land to be thrown into the deal. In the end, the local government offered to lease Li more land than for which he originally asked.
Russia's Far East Federal District, a region two-thirds the size of the United States, has a population of just 6.3 million and wide swathes of unfarmed fertile land.
China is next door; its 1.4 billion people have an insatiable appetite for crops and produce, and its companies have gone as far as Australia, South America and the Pacific island of Vanuatuto to lease farmland, as reported by David Stanway for Reuters, who wrote about the agricultural arrangement between Russia and China.
Unlike most other parts of the world, the local population, cut off from Russia's western-facing economy, mostly welcomes Chinese investment, which has provided a lifeline following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chinese firms already lease or control at least 600,000 hectares of land in the Far East, which is equivalent to the size of a small U.S. state like Delaware.
The investments could surge if the political masters in Moscow were more accommodating, Stanway suggested.
"When the Soviet Union collapsed, the local people didn't really know what to do, so they started encouraging us to take over the land at very cheap prices," Li said. "They would pay us to clear the forests—they gave us a lot of support."
Pavel Maslovsky, who represents the Amur region near the Chinese border in Russia's upper house, the Federation Council, said the region needs investment and fears of an influx of Chinese is misplaced.
"To fear that investors would come to the wrong sector and in a manner which we do not like is like selling a bear's skin before you have caught the bear," he said.
But there remains considerable ambivalence in Moscow about the region's growing dependence on China. Relations between the two nations have been improving since a border war in 1969, but some tensions remain.
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