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How to Boost Russian Food Exports

The plenary session ‘Strategy of Russian Presence at Global Food Markets’ took place as part of HSE University’s XX April International Academic Conference, where participants discussed the prospects for Russian agricultural exports to Asia, as well as the use of nonconventional investment models, such as Islamic financial tools.

According to Alexey Ivanov, Director of the HSE — Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, most countries follow traditional patterns of interaction based on the long-standing model of global trade. In this regard, the bigger players have the most to profit from trade, thus ‘forming a kind of oligopolistic structure on the global market’.

‘We can increase exports within these systems,’ Mr. Ivanov said, adding: ‘However, there are other approaches, which Russia can use to build long-term trade with consumers of its food products, primarily grain, in the countries of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.’

The populations in these regions are growing, while conditions for agriculture production are worsening, and, thus, the risks of hunger are increasing. Therefore, food security is becoming a priority in these countries and Russia can help to solve this issue, he noted.

At the same time, almost all of the countries in question are Muslim, and this should be given full attention. Sheikh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Vice Rector at Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi and Head of Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, Bahrain Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, U.A.E., commented on the some specifics of manufacturer-investor relations within the context of Islamic law.

In particular, he spoke about the concept of ‘salam,’ which can be used to finance small and medium-sized farms. Under this approach, farms immediately receive money for their products even if delivery does not take place for another six or seven months. At first glance, farmers may risk losing profits, since, at the moment of delivery, the market price on their production may have gone up. On the other hand, they receive guaranteed payment, whereby these funds can be invested in production development, without worries about whether they can sell their products in the next six months or not.

Furthermore, Madina Kalimullina, Senior Research Fellow at the HSE — Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, spoke about how Russian agriculture could take advantage of Islamic financial tools to boost exports. She commented on the ‘sukuk salam’ approach, which foresees pre-paid food delivery. This approach could be important in the future. Furthermore, contracts for delivery can be securitized, whereby investors get security while paying for the right to obtain products in the future. Another use of ‘sukuk’ would include the creation of joint production-export projects, with shares that could be sold to potential investors.

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