The sanctions have lowered Russia’s trade statistics with the West, but by the end of 2022, goods turnover with friendly countries will break all records. FCS First Vice-President Ruslan Davydov said how long it took for exporters to rebuild logistics after the restrictions were introduced, how customs are dealing with increased cargo flows at checkpoints, and whether it is necessary to wait in line at the Russia-Georgia border during the holidays. He said in an interview with RIA Novosti. Interview with Mila Kuzmich.
– As we know, 12 new lines have recently been opened in Upper Lars, one of the most famous checkpoints on the Russian border. Have the problems there been resolved now? No more queues?
“We monitor the work of all checkpoints on a daily basis. Up Lars, of course, is one of the troubled ones. At this border crossing, the reconstruction phase has not yet been completed, but entry and exit lanes for vehicles have already been introduced. They certainly help speed up the passage of vehicles. It should also be noted that there is a tunnel behind the checkpoint. If something happens in this tunnel, we can’t do anything to help.
To date, Verkhniy Lars is almost online for entry, and there is a stream of trucks, and unfortunately, there is a huge queue for the exit from the Russian side. In previous years, the queue was mainly for entry.
– What are they carrying?
– There is trade, all kinds of goods are transported from Upper Lars. In the last days of December alone, 257,000 tons of goods passed through this checkpoint. This is 65% more than in December last year. Grain, flour and cereals, wood and wood products, fuel, glass, etc. we bring And our trade continues and transit: Many goods are coming from Kazakhstan, Central Asia to Turkey, Georgia, Armenia.
– Do you see an increase in flows in both directions?
– Maybe there is not a serious surplus in entry to us, but there is a serious increase in exit. During the day, 600 or more trucks pass the exit.
– So skiers going skiing in Gudauri should take time to queue there?
– If it were possible to completely separate the flows, then of course we could talk more confidently about the passage of cars. However, this point is quite narrow and the reconstruction is not yet complete.
But at the customs in Upper Lars, the shifts have been strengthened, the inspection and inspection complexes are working. Together with the border guards, we do everything to ensure that cars cross the border as soon as possible and in accordance with all security measures. As we predict, if the truck flow decreases during the holidays, the cars will cross the border faster.
– There was a traffic jam on the Azerbaijani border this year, has the situation improved there?
– The situation at the Azerbaijan border has been corrected, all work is done online. New lines were also started to be used in Yarag-Kazmalyar, the busiest and largest checkpoint. Let’s hope next year the rebuilding, both here and in Upper Lars, will come to an end, and with it, the problems will end.
The highest loads in Upper Lars as well as in Yarag-Kazmalyar were in early November: a large number of cars are on the road and at the same time a large stream of trucks enters. At a certain moment, 3.5 thousand cars piled up there just to get in our place. The border guards and I agreed to an emergency program – we worked for two weeks to remove these queues.
Now there is no problem, we have been holding for the last two weeks: the size of the queues does not reach half of the working day, it is resolved in a few hours. And right now, on New Year’s Eve, it’s completely sub-zero.
– Will customs work non-stop on New Year’s holidays?
– We work all the time: 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since February, an operational headquarters has been operating at FCS where we handle all current issues.
For example, on New Year’s Eve, tangerines were brought to Adler, and conversations about tails immediately began. But look how many cars we let pass: In December this year, the rate of importing tangerines from Abkhazia is one and a half times higher than last year.
This must also be taken into account, and not only is the traffic jam inevitable during such flows, the infrastructure cannot quickly bypass all the flows. In general, our turnover with friendly countries is increasing and it is significant: 50%, even 200% in some countries, good growth in the EAEU.
– And speaking of hostile countries: how much has the flow of goods with Europe decreased compared to the end of last year?
– In some EU countries, the flow of goods fell by about 50%: if about three thousand trucks came to us from Europe, now about one and a half thousand arrive, including the flow through the Belarusian border.
There are more traffic jams at the border with Belarus than here. We talked with colleagues from Belarus – it turned out that the issue is in the problematic work of the Poles and the Baltic states.
Are they doing this on purpose?
– Look, for example, what is happening in Burachki – this is a checkpoint in the Pskov region, the busiest point of the border between Russia and Europe. We are ready to let 400 cars pass through there a day, and they only let us 200 cars through, at best – 250. Usually these days, we went to zero on Catholic Christmas – there were no queues. Now the queue is about 200-300 cars. We may miss more, but they don’t.
– Where do you see more problems: in the west or east?
– On the eastern border, on the Chinese border, we see growth in all modes of transport, even compared to pre-Covid times: both at automobile checkpoints and at ports. The number of containers under customs control exceeds all historical peaks. Now the main limiter is the capacity of Trans Siberia. Customs takes care of everything else.
This year will be a record trade volume with China – an increase of up to 30%. There is a huge increase in trade volume with India, more than 2.5 times, and 20% with Iran.
– Is growth mainly driven by exports everywhere?
– Our general trade turnover is growing mainly due to exports. Overall imports fell somewhat compared to last year, of course at the expense of Europe. Presumably, the weight reduction in imports during the year will be around 15%-17%.
– What about the USA?
– More than halving with the USA. Their share in our foreign trade has now fallen below 2 percent.
– What will be the final figure for Russia’s total import and export volume this year?
“We have already left the last year behind in terms of foreign trade turnover value. We are likely to run a record trade surplus, mainly due to export volumes. Even December will not change the overall picture for energy carriers.
In general, we try to treat the statistics carefully, as the volatility of the indicators is very high this year. For example, at the beginning of the year, we would have grown very fast, we would have broken records in January-February. Then, in March-April – a sharp decline. People tend to dramatize the situation, but we understood that now the work will be restructured and the work will begin.
Stability started in May and we have seen steady growth in imports since July: a systematic, steady increase in supply of 1.5% – 2% per month. Well, we are importing quite actively at the end of the year.
– What about exports?
– Exports decreased significantly in December due to restrictions on oil, petroleum products, gas. But when a sanctions package comes into play, it’s clear that things are set in motion. It is unreasonable for the market of the same energy carriers, which is largely speculative, to remove the Russian offer – it’s like shooting yourself in the foot or right over the head.
– How long do you think it usually takes for exporters to rebuild the new logistics and restore the flow of goods?
– It’s hard to judge. We have never seen anything like this in history. The measures implemented by Western countries in the spring caused difficulties in calculation and logistics. Overall, it took about two or three months to rebuild the logistics for all types of goods.
Now we are talking about specific products: the oil group. So it’s unclear how long it will last here. But it seems to me that adaptation should be faster because oil is needed. Going east, coal too.
You can make various loud statements, but here, for example, in the USA there is a blizzard – 50 people froze in it. If the West does not pity its own people, they should continue to act as if they are not buying oil and gas from us. However, it can be assumed that ultimately our energy resources also reach there through third parties. If they haven’t suffocated Cuba with any blockade in 60 years, then it’s impossible for us to shut it down.
I am Emma Sickels, a highly experienced journalist specializing in news and economy. As an author at News Unrolled, I cover the latest trends in the economic sector and provide readers with valuable insights into its complexities. My work has been featured in various media outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today, Bloomberg Businessweek and many more.