Table 54 Estimates for grain production in the USSR between 1928 and 1940 millions of tons

Year

Soviet estimate in 1930s

Revised Soviet estimate

Western "low" estimate

1909-1913

67.6

65.2

68

1913

80.1

76.5

79

1921

42.3

36.2

-

1928

73.3

73.3

63

1929

71.7

71.7

62

1930

83.5

83.5

65 +/-3%

1931

69.5

69.5

56 +/-9%

1932

69.8

69.8

56 +/-10%

1933

89.8

68.4

65 +/-4%

1934

89.4

67.6

68

1935

90.1

75.0

75

1936

82.7

55.8

56

1937

120.3

97.4

97

1938

95

73.6

74

1939

106.5

73.2

73

1940

95.9

86.9

87

Source: Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994.

Source: Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994.

good but less than planned—about 83.5 million tons. The Western estimate is only 64 million tons. Grain delivery was less than planned but twice that of 1928. It was a very good result and the country was able to export about 5.8 million tons in 1930. Much of the grain harvested should have been reserved for the state grain stock (Conquest, 2002).

The planned target for 1931 was fixed at 97.9 million tons but already by 1 June, when drought manifested itself in many productive regions, the authorities had to lower the plan to 85.2 million tons. The drought continued and the target was revised again to 79.2 million tons. The target was then lowered once again to 78.5 million tons, and in the autumn more realistic estimates were already assessing the harvest to be as low as 70 million tons. The plan for state grain provision was reduced as well from 26.6 million tons to 22.7 million tons. In 1931 the USSR managed to export 5.2 million tons, in spite of the very poor harvest that year (Yutkropht, 2001). In the autumn of 1931, one of the Soviet party leaders, Anastas Mikoyan, even stated that the grain problem had been solved in the USSR. One official source reported that 69.4 million tons of grain were collected, but the more realistic Western estimate was only 55.8 million tons, the lowest for many years.

In 1932, the next planned target was set at 84.8 million tons, including 29.5 million tons for the state grain provision. Within a few months the plan for grain delivery had been cut to 23.5 million tons. This was then lowered to 22.1 million tons. Finally, the plan for gross grain production was lowered to 73.3 million tons. The actual gross grain production officially announced was even lower, at 69.9 million tons, 34 percent short of the planned target for the final year of the five-year plan. The actual size of the harvest ought not to have been unexpected as many regions were still suffering from the previous year's famine which had begun in 1931. The USSR could export only 1.8 million tons and also set 1.8 million tons aside for the state reserve (Yutkropht, 2001).

In January 1933, Stalin reported that the five-year plan had been fulfilled completely in four years and three months. This was wholly untrue: the main targets, even in industry, were nothing like achieved. In agriculture it was even worse: a mere one-eighth of the mineral fertilizer and less than a third of the tractors had been produced. The failure of the grain production sector was evident as the harvest in 1932-1933 was significantly lower than in 1928-1929. Grain exports had declined during the period. In 1933 only 0.8 million tons were exported (Conquest, 2002).

The situation was worst in the livestock sector, as even Stalin's statistics for the 1930s indicate (Table 5.5.). The livestock sector underwent disastrous changes during the first five-year plan. Between 1928 and 1933 the number of cattle fell by 44 percent, of pigs by 55 percent, and of sheep and goats by as much as 65 percent. Additionally, animal productivity, as measured in terms of live weight per head, fell. Meat production dropped by 60 percent. This decline—except in the case of pigs—was far greater than the one that had occurred as a result of the six years of world war and civil war between 1914 and 1921 (Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994a).

One of the reasons for the poor state of the livestock sector was that the remarkable growth of area under cereals and industrial crops in 1929-1931 had been achieved at the expense of natural meadows and pastures. In July 1931, the Soviet authorities adopted a special resolution "On the development of socialistic livestock', which envisaged as its main target a considerable increase in meat production for 1931-1932.

Table 5.5. Official economic indicators of development in the Soviet livestock sector (millions of rubles) in the 1930s

Indicator

1929

1930

1931

1932

1933

1934

1935

Gross production

5,685.7

4,405.9

4,092.9

3,292.6

2,962.4

3,283.3

3,903.0

of livestock sector

%

100

77.5

72

57.9

52.1

57.7

68.6

Gross production

2,375.8

1,722.8

1,583.3

1,193.1

963.6

865.7

1,024.4

of meat

%

100

72.5

66.6

50.2

40.6

36.4

43.1

Source: Selskoe khozyastvo SSSR: 1935, 1936.

Source: Selskoe khozyastvo SSSR: 1935, 1936.

The main tool was to be an increase in the area under forage crops. Indeed, in 1931 the area of the forage crop increased 1.6-fold from 373,700 to 604,700 hectares. However, this could not stop the disastrous decline in livestock numbers. The increase in forage area was probably insufficient to compensate for the decline in natural fodder (Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994a).

The reduction in the amount of grain retained was also, evidently, a major factor in the disastrous performance of the livestock sector between 1929 and 1933. The goal of increasing the state grain provision at any cost led to acute shortages of grain for peasant food consumption and for feeding livestock. However, the situation is not clear because of the hopeless distortion of the official statistics. For example, modern Russian experts, referring to the revised Soviet statistics, admit that the amount of grain allocated for feeding purposes was reduced from 18.5 million tons in 1928 to 10.2 million tons in 1932-1933 (Yutkropht, 2001). The data on feed reserves, however, do not suggest that catastrophic losses might occur in peasant herds. For example, in 1912-1913 the feed grain reserve was reported to be 11.07 million tons and a catastrophic decline in livestock inventories was observed only when this feed reserve fell to between 5 and 6 million tons in the early 1920s (Popov, 1925). In reality, the mass slaughtering of cattle in Russian villages had already started in 1929, although later Soviet statistics show that at least 15 million tons of feed grain should have been available for livestock after state procurement. The Western estimate for the grain harvest suggests that there should have been a sharp fall from 12 million tons of feed grain reserve in 1928 to 6 million tons in 1929. Certainly these latter figures are more realistic, as they explain the mass slaughtering of live-

Table 5.6. Estimates of the feed grain available for peasants' livestock in the USSR, 1927-1940, according to recent Soviet and Western data on grain production (millions of tons)

Years

Grain production

Grain

Remainder of harvest

Remainder for feed

(millions of tons)

collection

(millions of tons)

Soviet

Western

(millions

High

Low

High

Low

(high)

(low)

of tons)

estimate

estimate

estimate

estimate

estimate

estimate

1928/29

73.3

62.79

10.79

62.5

52

23.2

12.7

1929/30

71.7

62.08

16.08

55.62

46

15.8

6.2

1930/31

83.5

64.14

22.14

61.4

42

20.86

1.5

1931/32

69.5

55.84

22.84

46.7

33

5.8

-7.9

1932/33

69.8

55.78

18.78

51.02

37

10.7

-3.3

1933/34

68.4

65.29

23.29

45.01

42

4.6

1.6

1934/35

67.6

68.25

26.25

41.25

42

0.35

1.1

1935/36

75

75.39

28.39

46.6

47

5.7

6.1

1936/37

55.8

(55.6)

(27.6)

28.2

(28)

-12.7

-12.9

1937/38

97.4

96.94

31.94

65

65

24.1

24.1

1938/39

73.6

74.09

29.09

45

45

4.1

4.1

1939/40

73.2

72.71

30.71

42

42

1.1

1.1

Source: based on Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994.

Source: based on Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994.

stock in 1929. Our estimates of feed grain reserves are given in Table 5.6. We calculate the feed grain reserve as the remainder of grain once the minimum (food and seed) demand of the rural population—roughly 40 million tons—has been met. The latter figure is calculated on the basis of the Soviet norm of 0.3 tons per capita. The remainder can be considered as feed grain potentially available for the peasants' livestock. We can regard 1928 as the baseline year as we know that in this year Soviet peasants retained good reserves of grain.

Losses of working cattle had an adverse effect on Soviet agriculture. From this point of view the most significant impact was the decline in the number of horses, which were the main draught animals in peasant agriculture. In 1933 the number of horses was half that of 1928 (16 and 34 million heads respectively). There was a steep decline in Russian farming between 1929 and 1933. Any advantage that was gained from the large expansion of the crop area was minimized by very low yields (less than 7 centners per ha). The move to increase the sowing area under cereals resulted in very low quality land being cultivated. One remarkable KGB report described typical problems of land cultivation at that time. First of all, the system of crop rotation was thoroughly disrupted. Wheat had been sown for five to seven years in a row on the same area and had depleted the soil productivity. The availability of animal or mechanical power to pull the ploughs and harvest the crop was the main physical constraint on grain cultivation. While in 1928 there was one horse per 6.3 hectares of ploughland, in 1932 this figure had increased to between 10.4 and 14 hectares. It was common practice to use cows for agricultural work, including ploughing. The depth of soil tilled was only 60 to 80 millimeters, which led to weed problems. Such tilling was regarded as able to achieve acceptable results only on areas of virgin land but was not suitable for arable land that had been cultivated for many years. The report said that this practice had been proposed specifically to increase the sown area. It was important in areas of limited precipitation to complete the sowing as early as possible. For that, it was necessary to start sowing immediately after the snow thaw, but lack of working cattle and labor resources left little opportunity to sow at the proper time (Viola, Danilov, and Manning: 456). It should be added that the decline in livestock in turn resulted in a considerable reduction in the quantity of manure applied to the soil, which further impoverished the soil. The use of artificial fertilizers was almost entirely confined to industrial crops (Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994a).

A resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU "On measures to increase yield', adopted on 29 September 1932, for the first time recognized that further expansion of the crop area was hardly possible as it would mean too high a burden on the working cattle, the deterioration of soil quality, and hence lower productivity (Viola, Danilov, and Manning, 2001: 494). The resolution therefore stated that other ways of increasing yield had to be found. However, catastrophic famine in the Ukraine, North Caucasus, and some other areas in 1932-1933 led to a further deterioration of Soviet agriculture. Conquest refers to a foreign visitor who described the visible indications of the "extraordinary deterioration in the physical condition in what had once been an extremely fertile region. Enormous weeds, of striking height and toughness, filled up many of the gardens and could be seen waving in the fields of wheat, corn and sunflower seeds." This region was the North Caucasus. In Kuban, there were no draught animals left, so cultivation would have been almost impossible anyway (Conquest, 2002: 280).

Many experts regard the year 1934 as the turning point, after which a growth in agricultural production and a general improvement in Soviet agriculture began. The main indicator for Soviet agriculture ought to be the growth in grain production as compared with the late 1920s. However, the main problem here is again the unreliability of Soviet agricultural statistics. The official statistics became especially distorted after 1933. Official figures published at the time purported to show that grain output had risen by 1937 to a record 120 million tons, 64 percent above the 1928 level and 50 percent higher than the highest pre-revolutionary harvest of 1913. But in the 1960s, Soviet statisticians themselves revised these figures and gave, for 1937, a figure which was 20 percent lower. The actual "barn" harvest would be even less than this figure. In any case, average cereal production during the 1930s was not higher than in the pre-revolutionary period (Vert, 1995). As for the gross agricultural production, it had barely recovered to the level of the mid-1920s. According to official figures, as estimated in the 1960s, in 1940 it exceeded the 1928 level by a mere 2.5 percent (Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994).

There is no evidence that Soviet agriculture become more advanced in terms of farming practice after 1934. Some experts note that satisfactory crop rotations were not introduced even in the more stable years of the mid-1930s. In 1935, crop rotation was practiced on no more than 40 percent of the sown area. In 1936, there was a very poor harvest because of the drought and this resulted in a chaotic situation. It is unlikely that the best harvest of 1937 was achieved because of improvements in agricultural practice, in spite of hopes for technical modernization by the Soviet authorities. They had the fixed idea that the modernization of agriculture by replacing the horse with the tractor would lead to rapid progress. The authorities made great efforts to supply kolkhozes with tractors, but supplies were far from adequate. By the end of the 1930s, some 88.5 percent of collective farms had no tractors of their own, and the Machine Tractor Stations (MTS) served only 13.6 percent of collective farms (Conquest, 2002).

A reliable indication of the poor performance of Soviet agriculture is that livestock numbers had not recovered by the end of the 1930s. From 1934 onwards the livestock sector began to recover, but only in the case of pigs, and the levels of 1928 had only been reached by 1940 (although in 1937 a decline in numbers occurred due to the drought of 1936). In fact, the number of Soviet livestock would only recover fully by 1958. Even by 1940 the average live weight was still significantly lower than before collectivization. According to Soviet official statistics, the meat and dairy consumption of an average Soviet citizen fell by between 25 and 30 percent between 1930 and 1940 (Kiselev and Shagin, 1996).

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  • angelika adler
    Why grain production decline to 56.6 million tons in 1921 but improved to 80 million tons in 1923?
    1 year ago
  • Shukornia
    Why do you think grain production decline to 56.6milliontons in 1921,but improved to 80million tons?
    11 months ago
  • Kristian
    Why grain production declined to 56,6 million tons in 1921 but improved to 80 million tons in 1923?
    10 months ago
  • carol
    How much grain was exported from ussr 1930s?
    8 months ago
  • berilac
    How much ton of gain Russia production?
    5 months ago
  • Jonas
    How much grain did russia produce in 2000?
    2 months ago
  • Posco
    Why Did Grain Decrease With 37,6Million?
    1 month ago
  • kaarina
    How much grain did russia produce before collectivisation?
    18 days ago

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