Vladimir Morozov. Photo: Graham Tidy
AUSTRALIA risks losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in trade with Russia and is failing to plan for the looming loss, according to its ambassador to Australia.
Vladimir Morozov says Australia has a lot to offer Russia in agriculture but the Australians just don't seem all that interested.
To make matters more interesting, Russia plans to be self-sufficient in food production in eight to 10 years.
Each year, Australia exports $350 million worth of food, mostly meat, to Russia and this is expected to dwindle to zero. Between now and 2020-22, Russia hopes to buy in expertise from outside countries to help it become self-sufficient but so far had no interest from Australia.
''I don't know why,'' said Mr Morozov, a Canberra resident.
The Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Craig Emerson, said Austrade had been working to identify opportunities in Russia for Australian agribusiness technology and services suppliers.
These included farmers with experience in herd improvement and farm productivity.
''Ultimately, Australian industry makes its own decisions about investment based on the economic environment and opportunities available,'' Dr Emerson said.
''I would add that Australia's kangaroo meat industry is keen to resume exporting to Russia, but is unable to get its product into the market.''
Kangaroo meat exports to Russia have already been blocked for more than two years because of health concerns.
Australia has some of the least subsidised farmers in the world, who quickly learn to use new technology and run large-scale operations in variable conditions, according to Gundagai sheep, cattle and grazing cereal farmer Sam Archer.
''If Russia's not willing to take our food, Asia will have a voracious appetite,'' said Mr Archer, a former NSW Farmers Association treasurer.
He suggested Russian representatives contact the organisation running the Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarships, which send Australia's smartest farmers around the world to further deepen their knowledge.
''There's no doubt there's farmers out there willing to do this,'' said Mr Archer, a former Nuffield scholar.
He said live dairy cattle and Angus heifers were already being sold to Russia, which were being used to produce their own livestock.