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A group of Russian farmers and agri-business representatives were in Morris on Wednesday for a tour of Riverview Dairy as part of a multi-state tour of agricultural technology. (Submitted photo)

Russian visitors tour Riverview Dairy

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MORRIS, Minn. - A group of Russian farmers and agri-business representatives were in Morris on Wednesday for a tour of Riverview Dairy as part of a multi-state tour of agricultural technology.

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Alexander Zhukovsky, Agro Director of Pepsico and WBD Russia, served as a spokesperson for the group. Zhukovsky said Pepsico recently purchased a large dairy company in Russia - the biggest acquisition in the company's history - as part of an effort to move into offering healthier products.

"Russian people are used to a lot of dairy, and for us it's a very important part of our operation," said Zhukovsky.

The 32-member delegation arrived in Minneapolis on Tuesday and will be stopping in St. Peter, Minn. and Green Bay, Wisc. - areas with a climate similar to their locations in Russia.

The goal of the tour is to build familiarity with dairy technology and research in the United States.

"We have a target to understand what is new here, what we do not know," said Zhukovsky.

Zhukovsky said dairy operations in Russia are still quite underdeveloped. Over the last 20 years, different Russian industries have developed at different paces, and Russian dairy has been left behind.

"We need more milk with our ambitious business plans and to secure our strategic supply for the future," said Zhukovsky. "Right now, unfortunately, we have a lack of milk. The price of raw milk in Russia is the highest in Europe."

Many of the dairy farms in Russia are quite small (20 to 30 cows, perhaps up to 300) that still use old practices that result in small yields, said Zhukovsky. However, 300 to 400 herd farms are not profitable.

While there are a few dozen modern farms, most are still owned by families or a small number of local investors.

The Pepsico purchase included more than 20 dairy production plants around a large area in Russia. Zhukovsky said the company is interested in developing different practices for plants in different climate zones.

"People are very interested in the cows and dairy," said Zhukovsky. "It's not just about getting profits, getting money, it's heart, soul, it's life."

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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