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Forest in the fire of discontent: mushroom pickers will impose taxes? 

The state is finding new ways to replenish the treasury, this time at gunpoint forest riches – berries, mushrooms and herbs, which until now citizens collect uncontrollably. The Ministry of Agriculture is confident that the industry has a large export potential, and intend to develop it, while the Russians are waiting to find themselves in the role of the innocently affected by the authorities’ desire to “do better.”
Forest means common
Picking berries and mushrooms, wild herbs and nuts in Russia is not just a tradition, a hobby or a part of a healthy lifestyle. For many people in the country, wild plants are a way to “keep afloat” – to earn a living and livelihood.

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Therefore, the Russians are so sensitive to any attempt to introduce regulation in this area.
“People in some regions of Russia live in the most difficult financial, economic and living conditions – they feed themselves by making stocks,” notes Yaroslav Nilov, head of the State Duma’s Committee on Labor and Social Policy.
“I supervise the Nenets Autonomous District, and there almost every family freezes cloudberries, mushrooms, fish and venison for the future. Recently I was in the Smolensk region, people sell strawberries and mushrooms, because they live on meager pensions. You can not punish people for having ripped off an extra mushroom or raspberry. We must give people extra income, ”the parliamentarian is sure.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the reserves of wild-growing raw materials in Russia are about 8.5 million tons per year. At the same time they are now used by only 6%. Officials have repeatedly said that there is no single center of control over this area in the country.
So, last week the regulation of the government of the Russian Federation on the transfer of control of wild berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants and nuts to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation appeared on the Portal of regulatory legal acts ( The press service of the department said that the gathering of mushrooms and berries does not intend to restrict or prohibit, but in society this step was perceived that way. And the Russians have reason to wait for a dirty trick. That there is only a sensational law on fishing, after the adoption of which many residents of villages and villages fed from rivers felt deceived.
There is a similar situation with forest land. Forest is perceived in the country as a draw, that is, you can take. In many ways, therefore, the legislative permission of the Russians to collect the deadwood has plunged society into cognitive dissonance: was it really impossible before?

So much for the berries

Recall that at the end of 2016 from the governor of the Vladimir region Svetlana Orlova received a proposal to take control of the collection of wild plants. Private entrepreneurs, according to her, collect forest wealth absolutely free of charge, because of which the state loses a huge part of its natural resources without receiving anything.
Then the head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Alexander Tkachev, recalled that during the Soviet times taxation of subsidiary farms was introduced and this brought additional funds to the budget. And then in one of the interviews Tkachev stated that Russia traditionally imports mushrooms, although it’s in the country “like dirt” and there is no industrial basis for their production.
Then some journalists, comparing the facts and statements, concluded that the Ministry of Agriculture wants to take control of this area. The topic received a wide public response, and the department had to justify itself, stating that “the information that the Ministry of Agriculture is in favor of introducing a license to gather wild-growing mushrooms is fiction and is not true.”
However, it might not have been a question of licensing, but after only a month, the publication of Notepad reported that the State Duma is preparing a bill that should bring order to the collection of “tied” mushrooms, berries and plants.
The head of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources, Property and Land Relations, Nikolai Nikolayev said then that for Russia it is a huge market, and three quarters of the shadow market, and because of the lack of relevant legislation and regulation, it does not bring any revenue to the budget.
After all, there are professional pickers of berries and mushrooms, which are then exported.
Indirectly, this is confirmed by the statistics of ROIF Expert. According to their data, in 2018, the supply of Russian berries abroad increased by 43% by weight and by 9% by value (up to $ 0.5 million). At the same time, wild plants account for 32-35% of all berries collected in Russia.
The situation with mushrooms is a bit worse. According to the TEBIZ GROUP, in 2018 the volume of imports exceeded domestic production by 1.2 times. The leader then was the Kursk region, which produces about 6.7 thousand tons of mushrooms.
However, in the Union of suppliers and processors of wild plants, it is noted that when organizing the purchase of wild plants from the population, the money supply turnover can be called shady or illegal: even when calculating with individuals, it is not a matter of hiding taxes (the state absolutely deliberately freed citizens from paying income tax in order to stimulate economic activity in taiga and rural areas, many of which can be categorized as economically depressed areas), and even more so about legalizing penny income.

Count us

In general, the professional community is not against the introduction of clear rules of the game. However, as the General Director of the Union, Natalya Bobyleva, notes, “two negative factors should not be allowed: over-regulation of the industry, as well as the emergence of a certain monopolistic player in the market”.
“Currently, industry participants are working on a competitive basis, and we would not like to change this order,” she adds.
“The less the state climbs into this area, the healthier it will be,” says Anton Tabakh, chief economist at the Expert RA agency. “Mushrooms and berries are wonderful, they are actively bought by Finland and Poland. This is an excellent example of how a sector, to which the state does not care, lives beautifully and without regulation, ”Tabah points out.
Minselzokh does not hide the fact that he is determined to develop the export potential of the industry – the world market for berries, mushrooms, medicinal herbs is huge, and Russia has plenty of this wealth.
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates the export potential of mushrooms alone at $ 2 billion. However, all indicators here are very relative, therefore the ministry is in a hurry to deal with accounting.
“Taking into account the volumes that are actually produced in Russia, will allow us to assess export opportunities,” said Alexander Knobel, director of the Institute for International Economics and Finance of the Higher High-Tech Park of the Ministry of Economic Development. – In this sense, the initiative is understandable, but the additional regulation that it entails should not distort the production process. Regulation should be structured in such a way that the volume of gathering and production of wild-growing plants is not affected, but, on the contrary, in order to promote sales growth.
The State Duma has its own view on the problem: the deputies propose to organize reception points for collected wild plants from the population and so centrally control this area.
“The Ministry of Agriculture should support people who are forced to earn a living in this way, and not put in each bush a specialist who controls who and how much has gathered,” explained Vasily Vlasov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources, in an interview with .
However, as Bobylev notes, “purchasing and procurement centers have been operating in all villages and villages for a very long time, and not even one by one, but, on the contrary, there are a large number of these purchasing points and they compete with each other in the proposed purchase price.”
The collection of mushrooms and berries for personal use is often regulated by local authorities in the meantime. And not always in favor of ordinary people.
The most rigid policy was taken by the authorities of Primorsky Krai In 2017, deputies of the local legislative assembly limited the time for gathering pine nuts to one and a half months (from October 1 to November 15), and in 2018 they set a fine in the amount of 1.5 to 3 thousand rubles for violations in collecting medicinal plants, berries and mushrooms . Moreover, the collection of pine nuts could bring local residents an additional 60-170 thousand a month.

Cranberry photo control

A similar restrictive practice has developed in other countries of the post-Soviet space.
Since 2015, in Kazakhstan, citizens without permits can pick up mushrooms, berries, nuts and medicinal herbs only within the regional norms. For example, residents of Nursultan (Almaty) will have to confine 3 kg of mushrooms or berries.
In Belarus, it is possible to collect cranberries and lingonberries only within the time allowed by the regional executive committees. Violators are caught using photo- and video cameras — from January to July 2018, 49 people were thus brought to administrative responsibility.
In Ukraine, the collection of wild plants is regulated by the regions. In 2012, the media reported that the Khmelnitsky Regional Council set a fee for picking wild berries and mushrooms — UAH 0.45 per kg of strawberries or blueberries, 0.5 per kg of hazelnuts and 0.55 per kg of white mushrooms. Whether the restrictions still apply are not specified.

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