The Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) will become a pilot site for testing innovative technology, which will provide all residents of the region and shift workers with high-quality, fresh and inexpensive bakery products. The governor of the region, Yuri Bezdudny, announced this at the first Arctic Bakery Forum, held in Naryan-Mar and Moscow (at the Russian Biotechnological University).
Today, in settlements of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, thanks to regional support measures, social grades of bread are sold in stores at a price of 63 rubles. for 1 kg at a cost of 160–190 rubles. Through industrial supplies of high-quality frozen bakery dough products, the district authorities also hope to help local bakers update their Soviet-era capacity.
As Alexey Lyalin, president of the Russian Union of Bakers (RSB), told MK, work on launching a project for remote regions has already begun. Owners of large bakeries with blast freezing technology in special freezers are ready to support the pilot, while a number of machine-building enterprises have developed mobile bakery and trading modules for its implementation. The first mobile bakery and shopping complexes are planned to open in the first quarter of 2024 in several hard-to-reach settlements.
The initiative has aroused great interest in other regions of the Russian Arctic, since it allows not only to reduce the costs of regional budgets, but also to provide every resident with tasty and fresh bread. As Vagif Sheikhov, general director of the Severodvinsk Bread Factory (Arkhangelsk region), explained to MK, the specificity of the north is the large transport distance for the delivery of raw materials, ingredients, packaging, and spare parts from the mainland: “The cost of our bread is higher than in the middle zone. And it’s not easy for us to compete with products from St. Petersburg and Vologda, which are ready to give lower prices to chains.” Another pressing problem is staffing. Thus, in Severodvinsk there are many large defense enterprises, where salaries are higher than at food industry enterprises. Therefore, according to Sheikhov, retaining highly qualified employees, especially young ones, is not easy.
Rector of the International Industrial Academy Olga Ilyina recalled other pain points in the industry. “Many bakeries have carried out large-scale modernization. We purchased modern equipment, including imported ones. But due to the current economic restrictions, the problem with spare parts and scheduled maintenance of lines has sharply worsened. True, Russian machine builders took advantage of this and brought to the market several interesting proprietary developments that successfully replace expensive imported analogues,” Olga Ilyina noted to MK.
According to her, difficulties have also accumulated in the fleets of bakery factories. It is no secret that many drivers were called up to serve in the military service or signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense. As a result, in a number of regions there is no one to deliver bread to remote villages. The prices of cars and auto parts have risen sharply. Although it must be admitted that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Industry and Trade are finding rational and effective mechanisms to support the industry through leasing programs for specialized vehicles for transporting bakery products.
Of course, many Russians are concerned about the direction in which bread prices will go. According to Olga Ilyina, the problem of rising bread prices worries most of all not ordinary citizens, but the press, which loudly shouts: “Guard! They are raising the price of bread!” “Over the past three years, bread prices in different regions of the country have increased by only 1.5–3.5%, which is much lower than Rosstat inflation,” Ilyina recalled.
So there is no need to worry about this. Especially considering that this year, like last year, the Russian Federation harvested a near-record grain harvest. But the share of flour in the cost of bread is only about 15%. The main expenses are wages, housing and communal services tariffs, fuel and lubricants, packaging, ingredients, equipment. Their value grows with the market.
“In general, the situation with bread in the country is stable,” says Alexey Lyalin. — In regions with direct logistics access to raw materials, as a rule, a wide range of bakery products are produced. But the picture is completely different in remote areas.” For example, to get to the village of Khongurey in the Zapolyarny region of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, forum participants swam along the Pechora River for more than 60 km. It is difficult to deliver bread daily in the off-season, when the ice is not suitable for the winter route and navigation has ended. For comparison, the range of cities in central Russia includes over 300 items, while in the Arctic it is 15 times smaller.
Huge distances and interruptions in supplies for up to four months a year hit the bakers’ pockets hard. Thus, according to the president of the RSP, the industry average level of profitability of the industry is no more than 5%, in some cases regarding social bread the profitability is completely negative, which means it requires subsidies from the internal resources of the enterprise.
Pricing in the baking industry directly depends on energy. An economically justified tariff should be no more than 4.3 rubles per kW/hour. And in the Arctic it ranges from 50 to 200 rubles. per kW/hour. Clean water suitable for bread production is another important issue, along with a shortage of highly qualified specialists.
Therefore, bakers are counting on a qualitative update of the state support program in the form of subsidies for social grades of bread. Firstly, it is clear that the allocated funds are not enough to solve the problems that were set when forming the subsidy. According to independent experts, the amount of the subsidy for 2023 should have been from 7 rubles. per 1 kg of product, and not 2.5 rubles, as it turned out in practice. Secondly, the allocated amount was not enough for all enterprises. Thirdly, the mechanism and procedure for providing subsidies to the regions is unclear. Some subjects of the Russian Federation located in the Far North received amounts that were incomparably smaller than, for example, the regions of the Central Federal District. “Some regions are trying to evenly support the industry on their own. Thus, in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the regional subsidy for bread in the city of Naryan-Mar alone is 58 rubles this year. per kg, and the more remote the territory, the higher the subsidy. This is a very good example of regional support for the industry,” noted Lyalin.
The largest enterprise in the Murmansk region, JSC Khlebopek, also solves the problem on its own, therefore in Murmansk and Apatity with the help of a subsidy of 2–2.5 rubles. By 1 kg it is in principle impossible to restrain bread prices. And there are many such examples.
“To make any sense, it is necessary to allocate targeted federal subsidies based on the characteristics of the country’s territories - their distance from raw material hubs, logistics accessibility, climatic conditions and other factors. RSP experts and the administrations of the “Arctic” regions will continue to search for solutions to improve the supply of bakery products. I hope that the proposal of the Governor of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Yuri Bezdudny, will demonstrate the capabilities of Russian bakery production and improve the lives of Siberians and shift workers in remote areas,” concluded Lyalin.