Ekonomika i Zhizn' Chernozemie newspaper №7(30), 10-23 April 2010
Russian-German EkoNiva company is one of the leaders in Russian agricultural sector. It has been working in the Russian farming business since 1994. At the present moment, EkoNiva is a large multi-faceted agricultural holding, comprising 25 enterprises in 16 regions of Russia including Liski district of Voronezh region, where OOO “EkoNivaAgro” was established in 2002. The enterprise deals with production of cereal, leguminous, forage and oil crops as well as dairy and beef cattle breeding.
At present, the company has integrated 11 former kolkhozes with total arable area of 41000 ha, which constitutes approximately 40% of all arable land of the district. “We comprise 11 farms of Liski district which is the best district in Russia”, says Alexandr Rybenko, Executive Director of OOO “EkoNivaAgro”, “and first of all, we change attitude to land. In every farm we start restoring abandoned, neglected, often uncultivated lands”. The story of EkoNivaAgro began with kolkhoz “Tihiy Don” in 2002 when Alexandr Nikolaevich became the head of the farm. At that point, the farm had about 38 million rubles of debt, while the farm’s funds were estimated to be half as much. It was hard to find investors, although there were plenty of people who wanted to purchase the farm. However, in the same year, Alexandr Rybenko had a meeting with Stefan Duerr, president of EkoNiva Company. Thus, EkoNivaAgro was created on the basis of the kolkhoz, with Alexandr Rybenko taking charge of the new enterprise. All debts were cleared by July 2003.
The enterprise continues its intensive development, cultivating more and more land. Due to introduction of state-of-the-art technologies combined with the use of modern agricultural equipment and professional work of specialists, gross yield of grain in 2009 amounted to 60 thousand tons; sunflower – 7 thousand tons; beet – 17 thousand tons. EkoNivaAgro was the first to introduce advanced agricultural technologies such as minimum tillage and no till farming in Liski district. The enterprise applies the most innovative agricultural machinery and equipment produced by the world leading manufacturers.
Some lands, which EkoNiva acquires together with the farms, are quite problematic. Improvement of soil quality requires the use of various tillage technologies and sometimes even recultivation since sometimes the points which were marked as fields on the map appear to be forest-belts in reality.
However, a cattle breeding with its own complicated but highly interesting history of formation and development remains EkoNiva’s priority.
EkoNivaAgro successfully revives and develops cattle breeding in Liski district.
Liski district had a number of abandoned cattle breeding enterprises, some of which used to be rather profitable and used to have herds totalling a few thousand head of cattle in Soviet times. However by 2002, they had all turned into dilapidated barns, storehouses and cattle pens. When Stefan Duerr was offered to undertake dairy business, he, at first, refused to, for he considered the business unprofitable. Nevertheless, Victor Shevtsov, the Head of Liski District Administration, laid down a condition: they would get the lands in selo Schuchie only provided that they took up reviving cattle breeding. That moment, the industry was being in decline, milk and beef production brought nothing but losses, the cattle still remaining in kolkhozes was being slaughtered. The time showed that Victor Shevtsov foresaw the change in the situation a couple of years ahead: the state of cattle breeding altered: the industry received government support.
In 2006, EkoNivaAgro commenced erection of cattle breeding complex for 1200 dairy cows in selo Schuchie. It became possible due to financial support of Liski Branch of Centralno-Chernosemny Bank of SB RF, within the framework of the National Project “Agro-Industrial Complex Development”. A year later a high-technology complex was put into operation. Imported Simmental herd is kept there in individual and group free stalls with deep-litter bedding. Calves are raised in individual hutches in cold housing conditions. GEA WestfaliaSurge 2 x 24 Euro parallel parlour is used for milking. From 2008 EkoNivaAgro has been engaged in cattle breeding and had the status of breeding reproducer of Simmental and Red cattle.
For efficient monitoring of the livestock at cattle breeding complexes, EkoNivaAgro applies Dairy Plan herd management programme. It allows storing complete information on the animals and keeping the genealogy, medical, vaccination and yield records available for familiarization.
EkoNivaAgro places a particular emphasis on milk quality control. In bulk tanks, where the milk is collected, its composition components and quality are immediately analyzed, and defects detected. On average, livestock breeding subdivisions of EkoNivaAgro produce 12-15 tons of milk a day. This is a high-quality product which is supplied to the milk processing plants of Liski district and Unimilk company (Lipetsk region).
At present, EkoNivaAgro comprises 12 cattle breeding subdivisions. Total cattle number amounts to 7800 head, 4000 of which belongs to dairy herd. “Together with new kolkhozes we acquire a certain number of cow and swine barns sometimes with some population in them,” says Alexandr Rybenko, “In cooperation with District Administration and local people we decide at once what should be restored and what should be dismantled or closed down temporarily. Vladimirovka subdivision joined EkoNivaAgro in 2008, when global financial crisis just arose. At that time, there was only one employee – a janitor in the office. In the autumn, we began reconstruction of two dilapidated storehouses into a new complex for 500 head of cattle. Despite the crisis and financial distress, we managed to fulfil the promise given to the Adiministration Head and people. Using our own funds and Sberbank support, we restored and put into operation a cow house for 226 cows and maternity barn. It is equally important that thus we created 35 jobs in one year.”
Currently operating cattle breeding subdivisions of OOO “EkoNivaAgro” are being re-equipped all the time. So, for instance, in cattle breeding subdivision of s. Schuchie the systems of video surveillance were installed in such important facilities as maternity and milking barns. At any moment, the manager can monitor the most relevant processes. Presently, the construction of the second cattle breeding complex with a rated capacity of 1800 dairy cows is being launched in s. Kolybelka. On April 13th, the first, symbolic, peg was driven into the land to mark the start of it.
New projects of EkoNivaAgro and social policy of the company.
“EkoNivaAgro” is constantly expanding. Some of the projects are realized due to the company’s sole efforts, others require financial support of Centralno-Chernosemny Bank of SB RF. In particular, the bank granted a loan for construction of the cattle breeding complex in s. Kolybelka of Liski district, purchase of the necessary equipment and cattle of Russian and European breeds.
Collaboration of EkoNiva and CChB SB RF in terms of investments began in 2004 when the company received its first loan for purchase of agricultural machinery. A year later, EkoNiva enlarged its machinery park with the help of CChB SB RF. Since 2006, the bank has been participating in EkoNiva’s development of cattle breeding. By 2009, EkoNiva had been using 1100 million rubles of CChB’s funds including investment portfolio amounting to over 700 million rubles. In 2010, decision to finance construction of the cattle breeding complex in s. Kolybelka was made. Total planned investment amount is 646 million rubles, 80% of which is loan funds provided by CChB. The bank is currently participating in two more projects, not related to the construction: enlargement of the breeding herd, in particular, the purchase of 300 pregnant heifers from Austria, Germany and Slovakia and acquisition of agricultural equipment. “Development of cattle breeding, first of all, means new jobs, that is why it finds support. Only those villages which are still involved in this industry have survived”, notes Sergey Lyashko, financial director of OOO “EkoNivaAgro”.
Over 860 employees are working for EkoNiva now, half - in cattle breeding and half - in crop production. Most of these people come originally from the villages in which the farms and complexes are situated. However, the company has recently been employing veterinarians and zootechnicians from other cities and regions of Russia (for example, Saratov) as well. Besides, specialists come back to work after taking practical training abroad. “The company is aimed at attracting young employees,” says Sergey Lyashko, - “We are doing our best to provide them with support for their professional growth and self-improvement and with housing.” Indeed, EkoNivaAgro draws a lot of attention to social sector development. The enterprise participates in the Programme “Housing for young specialists and their families”. In January 2009, a kindergarten for 40 children, built by joint effort of EkoNiva company and Liski district administration, was open. In addition, the company lends support to the secondary school, football team, sports school of sambo (art of self defense) in selo Schuchie and contributes to the building of the cathedral of Holy Virgin of Vladimir in Liski.
Olga ZASLAVSKAYA, reviewer of “EZh-Chernozemie”