Foreword EkoNiva News Edition No. 76

Foreword EkoNiva News Edition No. 76

1 September 2022 News from the Company

Stefan Dürr: 20 years with love for land and respect for people


Twenty years ago, EkoNiva started its farming business by launching operations in three regions: Kursk (Zashchitnoye), Voronezh (EkoNivaAgro) and Orenburg (Severnaya Niva).

The conditions were roughly the same everywhere: after the collapse of the Soviet agricultural system, collective farms were having difficulty switching to a competition‑driven free market economy. Farms headed by strong leaders managed to stay afloat doing their best to keep the assets. Others were literally falling apart. Starting a farming business was not an easy task. Many people were skeptical about my chances of success: a German taking up agriculture in Russia, just think of it! I had to earn people’s trust and respect.

As the first step, we imported modern farm machinery and seeds. We had to learn fast, master cutting‑edge technology and, most importantly, change people’s mentality.

It was very important for the people to embrace a new way of thinking and become proactive.

We started off with crop farming. At that time, we did not even think that one day our company would become Russia’s largest milk producer. However, we kept the old cow farms which passed to us together with the land we purchased. I will always be grateful to Viktor Shevtsov, Head of Liski District Administration, for not letting us slaughter the cattle. His position made us reconsider our strategy and put serious efforts into livestock farming to make it profitable.

There were times when I was close to giving it up. At the beginning of the 2000s, things were very difficult. However, in 2005, the government launched targeted programs to support the industry, which was a good boost for us. We survived the crisis of 2008, left behind the complicated 2014 and are moving on steadily despite the current hardships.

Step by step, we have created a successful and stable agricultural business from scratch. The enterprise in Voronezh oblast is our largest operation land‑ and herd wise. The facility in Kursk oblast is one of the top seed breeders in the country. The dairy and beef farming business in Orenburg has grown impressively expanding into adjacent Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Samara oblast.

The success of the farms launched afterwards was largely based on the experience and know‑how consolidated by these three pioneers. Today, EkoNiva operates in as many as 13 regions! Diversification allows the company to mitigate the climatic risks and minimize losses caused by drought, rain or frost.

EkoNiva operations are like children in a family – each with its unique character but all united by a strong corporate spirit. Each facility has its own specialization, growth drivers and experience enabling it to make a substantial contribution to the Group’s total income. I have recently come across a newspaper with my interview dating back to 2002. When asked if I was pursuing any super‑task in Russia, I answered: ‘I want to show what your land is capable of if you treat it wisely.

I want to prove that farming can be profitable. To make it happen, one just needs to love the land, use advanced technologies, high‑quality seeds, proper fertilizer and state‑of‑the‑art machinery’.

Today, I would add one more extremely important component: a close‑knit team. It is the most valuable asset at EkoNiva. I am proud of the people who have been with us all these years. I thank each of them for their hard work, expertise and trust. I am very happy that many young people come to work for the company. It makes me confident that the path we started 20 years ago will be continued and EkoNiva will keep on feeding people.

Stefan Duerr, Ekosem-Agrar Group President