Boris Knyazev: “I am not rich enough to feed the banks. I am a poor man … “

Correspondent of the “» edition met with Boris Pavlovich Knyazev at his office, at the end of the year, at the Wall of Fame.

– What are you surprised at? – He answered my unspoken question. – I’m a “red director” and we “red” have such a rule that the best people should be placed on the “Wall of Fame”.Here are machine operators, here – breeders, here – feed producers, employees of housing and communal services …

– And are they listed on the balance of your business too?

– Of course, he says, they and other “social sphere”.

The head “Altynsarino” LLP is ready to give a detailed reference to each worker.

– Only a few people can be caught at a work place now, he says, from December 16, the Independence Day, all are on vacation. On paid leave. We summed up the year – and took a rest. Up to 8 February. We deserved it …

We continued conversation with Boris Knyazev in the office. He opened it by himself (all employees are still on vacation).

Here it is necessary to make a short digression. Although Boris Knyazev is a well known personality. And not only in the Kostanay region, but also across the whole country. Yet, let’s introduce him. That’s what they say about him in the book “The Best People of Kazakhstan”: Knyazev Boris Pavlovich, director of “Altynsarino” LLP. He was decorated with “Kurmet” order, medals “For Labour merit”, “For development of virgin lands”, jubilee medal “Tynga 50 zhyl”, service medal “Astana”, award pin “Honorary Educator of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” Awarded with the Certificate of Merit of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Winner of the “Shapagat 2007” award. The deputy of the regional maslikhat. Today, “Altynsarino” LLP is the largest agricultural enterprise in the Republic of Kazakhstan. There are a lot of honorary certificates, diplomas and letters of appreciation, including from the President, on its balance sheet.

– Boris Pavlovich, 2015 was quite difficult for the farmers; did you feel it first-hand?

– Well, then, let’s start from the other end: there are no simple years in agriculture. And so, when they say that now is the next crisis, I answer that we can have a crisis only in one case – when there is a crop failure. And it happens more often than the global economic crises. Therefore, farmers, normal peasants, have to be persistent to all “crises”, habituated. I believe that my team applies equally to all crises because they have often “visited” us.

I sowed for the first time in 1970. Do you understand how long ago was that? Let’s count: 46 sowing campaigns, 46 harvests. And all 46 are not similar. All are different. Therefore, one who is engaged in land cultivation and grain growing annually meets with something new, something incomprehensible. I have already talked about it somewhere, but I will repeat. After the third year in the university I had an internship with Terentiy Semenovich Maltsev. Today, I tell many young people about him, but they do not know who he was. And he was the Great Russian farmer in his time. And I remembered the two things of which he spoke for a lifetime. The first: the work of the agronomist is like playing chess with nature. Only nature always plays white and makes the first move. An the task of the agronomist is to find an adequate response to this move. And that is the idea! See for yourself: no spring is like the previous one, no fall … It is very difficult for us to do the error correction. Sometimes it is even impossible. Therefore, each of us must be ready for it.

I, for example, calculate the next year so far. I do not think about the past: I did what did, what I received is in my pocket. Just recently I rode on my “points”, using which I do my guidance several times a year. I looked – yes, a layer of snow is small, but a watery layer, the ground beneath this layer is thawed, and I already make certain predictions … Look: there was a small snow fall during the whole December, but what does it mean? So, certainly July will be rainy. So, we can hope that in the sixteenth year of the grain will be white and hay – black. It is quite possible that we could stay next year without hay. This is the heat that now is here – sooner or later it, somewhere, will bite us in the ass. Either it will be severe frosts in January and February, or delayed spring that will not allow perennial grasses to grow. And I am already preparing to all these things, calculating …

And what can you advise your colleagues in this situation?

– We have to work constantly and thoughtfully, to coordinate our actions with nature. Willy-nilly anyone who cultivates the land should be able to play chess with nature. Although all of us remember the expression from the Soviet past: we will not wait for her mercy, we will take what we want ourselves. And what did we receive in the end? We took so many somewhere that have not achieved anything in general. Everywhere there is a line that is impossible to cross. We are constantly told that in the West or anywhere else producers receive fabulous harvests. I agree: they get. But they have squeezed all that could be squeezed out of their land and stopped. For many years, that vey America does not show productivity growth. Yes, 30 quintals per hectare is a good harvest. But there is no growth in the same time perspective. Therefore, nature cannot be fooled, everything has its limits.

– What is the limit in your household?

– What happens in our conditions? We are able to obtain 1 quintal of grain, provided that we will spend 12 mm of rainfall. It will be a great harvest, a great achievement of an agronomist. Below is impossible. And you can do anything, even break the forehead – with 8 mm of rain you will never get one quintal. You see? And when some of our senior executives believe that the yield can be increased to the lawlessness – it’s all a lie, a misconception. Therefore, if you got 12 quintals in our conditions – well done! On the other hand, many get one quintal with 18 and even 20 mm, 22 (!) mm of precipitation …

– And what’s going on here?

– That is where you need to talk about efficiency of agriculture. Terentiy Maltsev had another expression that sunk into my mind deserves respect not the agriculturist who in good weather conditions was a good harvest, and one that consistently gets good yields, regardless of the weather conditions. You do not need me to get 20 quintals per hectare every five years. Now, if I get every year steadily Kamystin their 10 – that for me is an honor and praise. And I can not be put as an example of someone in Uzunkol (at the other edge of the area – Ed.) Is 15 quintals per hectare. It may, on the contrary uzunkoltsam I have to learn …

– Let us then read out aloud the economy of your company in order to understand on the figures what is it all about ...

– In 2015, I believe altynsarintsy worked fine. We got 12 quintals per hectare. Sown area – 110 thousand hectares. Plus another ten thousand – it’s fodder, silage, annual grasses, it is necessary something to feed 3.5 thousand head of cattle. So you want-not, you can not be without them, as without oil. These include 110 thousand additional 24 thousand hectares of land Aktobe. We got there 12 quintals. It is without additions. Nice to be I do not need. It is necessary that everything was exactly in the enterprise economy. Below 29 no gluten, nature corresponds to what is necessary? Fine? – fine. Lodging. Although we will say so – not for the critics – at the other end of the field collected 26 quintals per hectare. Take these 26 centners, even if they sell 25 thousand – will be at roughly 62 thousand tenge. I’m selling its 12 quintals 50 thousand, and I will be 60 thousand tenge per hectare. Well, God be with him, a little less – nothing will live.

– Why such a price difference?

– For the quality score. There’s grain fodder, I have – far from it. So nothing to complain about, there is a profit, according to some estimates over 500 million. So in 2016 we will live, well, look at the seventeenth …

Surely you do not have problems with sales due to quality.

– None. If I just said that selling 30 thousand tons of grain – would have stood foremost. But I do not sell well. In these circumstances, in which we live today, I sell just as much as I should. To venture a month lived. Because, you see, that the corn in my warehouse – it’s better than money in the bank. While I’m always “get” with the proposals because our wheat is used primarily as an improver. But I “on the side” do not sell. Only proven its clients – four millers. Two of them have a railway siding and can take large amounts. The other two have set KAMAZ grain. The farm has a large fleet – 30 trucks, and it is necessary to provide them with work. So four millers me quite enough, quite diversified sales, and fifth is not looking for, because I think it’s bad. Individual transactions are bad for the economy of the enterprise. The main thing – stability, rather than an opportunity to grab.

On the way to you I saw a dozen of wagons on your railway track. Does it mean that you are gradually shipping?

– No, I tell you – we are on vacation until February. They have long been downloaded and are supposed to be getting somewhere in the south of Kazakhstan. This is an indicator of poor performance of the railway.

Has tenge-dollar exchange rate strongly affected the economy of your company?

– Of course, it has nfluenced. Here, look, the Kirov tank has become worth 240 thousand. Previously, he was worth 120 thousand. A ton of wheat, my wheat – 50 thousand. Here believe that summer, I could buy a bottle of 2 tons 400 kg. But today the price of wheat remained unchanged, and the balloon grew. And now I have to pay for it 4 tons 800 kg. The purchasing power of a ton of grain of my fallen significantly. I did not spit on anyone, I understand that today the Government, the President, to some extent inhibit the growth of prices for bread – they also have to feed a lot of people. It depends on it and stability in society, and the internal environment, and social tensions. So I think that everything is done correctly, it is necessary not only to count the money in his pocket, but also think about the state. Excuse me, many of us want: “The state is difficult, hard, bad, but we all want to live well without any problems.” And to do something with the State even though the last shred, but tear. It does not happen: if it is difficult to state, so difficult in our country, and this should be ready. And if you want everything to be good – look for another State where all the good time. Now I have a letter from altynsarintsev lie, he went to Germany, and now they are asking: can you help a little? Well this charity! Well you went for a German gratuitous piece of bread for the German happiness! Well now you’re crying? I have won there pervotselinnik Koval – lived and worked next to me, and stayed here. And some no pension receives. So I had better help …

There is such an assessment of efficiency of the enterprise as manufacturing productivity …

– See how. At the last meeting with the President I told him sincerely, thanks to the policy in the agricultural sector, which you implement, such people as I have all the conditions to perform better than many western farm enterprises. So, let’s count. Of course, if to divide the approximate price of my gross output by 350 dollars, I will get 38 thousand dollars per worker – it is in December. And if you divide by the August exchange rate? Yes, the West will become exhausted trying to make its companies to give such a performance. That is all.

– And what about animal industry? I know you have a modern feeding platform that you built on your own funds as well as railway hardstanding area.

– “Altynsarino” develops only at its own expense. I do not recognize any finance lease and loans. I’m not rich enough to feed the banks. I am a poor man. Agriculture turns around once a year. Only imagine, I’ll take out a loan – crop failure will happen – and I will have nothing that will pay for itself. So, my company lives only at its own expense. At that, my employees have a high salary. My best mechanizer receives 266,000 per month. Thirty-seven employees have a gross salary of more than 2 million a year; I’m not talking about specialists – only about workers. The average monthly salary in the enterprise is 101 thousand tenge. If many enterprises in connection with this financial mess carry out a cut in salaries, and the authorities recognize this and do not even enquire for it, I even have a growth of 10% compared to last year. I believe that my people get a decent salary, corresponding to high labour productivity. The only thing is that I could pay higher wages in some years, but the salary must not be paid in such way. People will not understand. There are years when I “fall”, but due to previously accumulated “belly fat” it is possible to maintain stability. Hence, the psychological atmosphere in the team is normal, and there is a constant growth of salaries. And my people know that March will come, and Knyazev will necessarily raise wages. Why in March? I introduced it intentionally, took over from Joseph Vissarionovich. I remember that in his presence in March prices for something were always reduced –  matches, salt, soap. Let it be a penny, but a reduction any way. And people knew that it is not necessary to buy salt for emergency: March will come and it would be cheaper. And it warmed the soul. And all were waiting for March.

So well. Now my people have a rest, they will go to work in February, and in March I will raise wages, and the mood will rise again …

– Let’s get around to the animal industry …

– Here is the same thing as with wheat – without any problems in the domestic market. But I have an idea. In this situation, it is necessary to look for some ways out, and it is necessary to try to sell part of your products abroad. To ensure the entry of foreign currency. If the inflow of foreign currency takes place, it will be good for me, for the company, and for the state as well.

– Telling about foreign countries, do you mean Russia?

-Yes, even to Russia. I have some plans for Orenburg, if it is possible, then I will be able to sell a kilogram of beef 100-200 KZT more expensive. I get rubles, which I strongly need because I work mainly using Russian machinery. Why not to change steers for new harvesters? I plan to sell about 1000-1200 heads in 2016, and each not less than 500 kg. And it is at least 250 kg of meat yield.

– That is, your livestock business is also quite cost-effective…

– There is profitability, but it is not very high – in the range of 10-15%. It all depends on the feed. The cheaper forage we procure, the more profitable cattle breeding is.

Pivot to Russia means that the domestic price of beef is unacceptable for you?

– No. Look what happens. Today, a kilo of meat costs 940 tenge, divide it in half – 470 KZT/kg of live weight. I  stay within 470, if you take the price of October. But it is already challenging with December prices. Last year, the cost of a kilogram of weight gain was 370 tenge. And, of course, if you sold at 420, and even took a subsidy of 80 tenge, then you had 130 tenge per kilogram of meat. Why not to engage in animal husbandry in such circumstances? But that will happen now at current prices, there is nothing I can say at the moment. I cannot definitively orient myself how to run livestock breeding and understand that the failure is inevitable somewhere, but it is necessary to go through it. The same thing is with milk production, but there is the problem of a different kind – in poorness of Kamystino feed, but we are doing our best in order to decide it. Yes, the Belorussian cows produce 9000 liters of milk. Let us have them here, in our conditions, on our forage, and their experts here as well: let them get at least 4 thousand liters, which make us happy.

There is the German educational center in Zerenda. Why have they established German educational center in Zerenda? And why did not they go, for example, to Ayteke Bi District of Aktobe region? Or  at least to our Kamystinsky District? But I went to Aktobe, and get there the same 12 quintals per hectare, the same as here – in Kamystindsky District … Is there a difference ..?

I would like to know your opinion about agricultural subsidies.

– There are several points. Firstly, we agricultural workers and all who live in this state must understand that if the state gives some subsidies, support – for this we must give thanks and rejoice. And we must work hard to feed ourselves. If you do not like something – do not sow grain, do not engage in animal husbandry. Take a shovel – dig the ore, pump oil, look for your place in the world, where you feel comfortable and well. And, secondly, we need to understand that agriculture is a complex industry, and it necessarily needs the support. Only it must be such that the farmer can feel it. A few years ago, we got subsidies for the transportation of grain. Was it the farmer who was subsidized the farmer? Those were traders. I am totally against the fact that the subsidies per hectare were abolished. I strongly oppose. Give this penny to a farmer – he will be happy and satisfied, and then you will have the right to say: I did support you. Instead, it bank interest rates were reduced. Let’s throw off the husks and  say directly that we support banks in this way, and it is not necessary to dissemble.

So, give particularly to the farmer. As I argue: we should think about how to earn our daily bread, we must plow, we have to work hard, but the support should also take place. Or here is another example – with subsidies for fertilizers, herbicides, and where is the confidence that the support is addressed to me, and not to their manufacturers? There is not. Let’s take the same fertilizers. I do not buy them – not because I do not recognize them. I admit it; I have even defended a thesis about them. I know what it is; we have learned it from college. But look what happens: if I begin to use them in my climate zone, they will be useful for me only in case of the wet spring. And if it is dry, there is no tillering zone, what happens to us more often, and then it turns out that you used fertilizers in vain. Why should I bury money below the ground? In my conditions it is necessary to apply fertilizers at depth down to 17 cm and hope for the aftereffect of these fertilizers.

Still, the biggest support from the state is preferential taxation. If it is removed, it will be very, very difficult for all of us. In 2015, I paid about 300 million of taxes, it is 30%. That is I received700 million as an indirect subsidy from the state in the form of concessions. For that money I can buy enough machinery. In 2005, when the year ended, there had already been offers to deprive us of this benefit, purporting that we helped you – now begin to live independently. And then at the meeting headed by the President, I said: “You will not come to the EKR on T-4 tractor”. And then that entailed just that. And gave an example – thanks to tax relief for 360 million tenge, I was able to buy four sowing machines. Neither I have eaten this privilege, nor have bought a “jeep”. So without preferential taxation it would be bad not only to such farm household as “Altynsarino”, but to others as well …

Timur Turkestanov

“” newspaper

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