Production potential in the “bread baskets” of Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Eastern Europe and Central Asia is a major food producer and exporter. Almost a quarter of world wheat exports come from the region, and especially from Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine (RUK). The potential of these countries to become a “bread basket” for the world has been emphasized because of already large production and exports and their “immense land and yield reserves”, referring to the abandonment of more than 50 million hectares of cropland and the large drop in crop productivity in the 1990s. However, there is considerable uncertainty about the potential of this land for food production. In this paper we review interdisciplinary literature and empirical evidence, predictions of production potential and impacts of climate change; and discuss the potential of the region to become a reliable breadbasket of the world. From a biophysical (crop growth) perspective, under different scenarios of increased yields, land use and climate change effects, RUK could produce an additional 40-110 million tons of wheat compared to current production, which would be a substantial additional production. However economic incentives, in particular the evolution of food prices and competition from other crops, are likely to significantly constrain these potentials. In addition, the introduction of export restrictions during recent times of high prices raised concerns on the reliability of RUK as exporters.

Global Food Security