RUSAG-L: Current Events #73

Please keep in mind that the following current events information represents information about events in Russian agriculture we received during the past week, while the actual events may have occurred earlier.

The sources for the information below include, but are not limited to, the following: the Open Media Research Center (OMRI), Interfax News, Food and Agriculture Report, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service at the Central Intelligence Agency's Central Eurasia Daily Report (FBIS), Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc., and The Washington Post.

The Russian Agricultural ListServ is sponsored by the University of Maryland College of Agriculture at College Park, the Research and Scientific Exchanges Division, Foreign Agriculture Service/International Cooperation and Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Committee on International Science and Education of the Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences.

15 February 1996:
-The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R4756 per dollar. (The Washington Post, February 15, 1996).

12 February 1996:
-According to Nikolay Kharitonov of the Agrarian deputies' group in the State Duma, Russian farmers are unable to launch preparations for the spring sowing campaign, even though it is time to begin. Kharitonov complained that the government had allocated only 65 percent of the money earmarked to sustain agriculture in 1995. He said that 56 percent of agricultural farms of all forms of property finished 1995 with losses. Most farms, noted Kharitonov, have not even begun to stock lubricants for spring sowing, and farmers from 35 out of the 89 members of the Russian Federation have not bought a single ton of mineral fertilizers. In the meantime, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha is optimistic about the upcoming campaign. Zaveryukha said the implementation of the government approved resolution to stabilize the situation in agriculture would step up the pace of preparation. Zaveryukha said he believed the agrarian sector will be able to produce the 77 tons of grain planned for this next year. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc. The British Broadcasting Corporation, February 12, 1996).

10 February 1996:
-Russian buyers have not turned to the European Community to purchase dairy supplies despite an overall increase in EU production. Instead, Russian import requirements have been met by cheaper supplies from New Zealand and by the 7,000 tons released from Polish stocks for export to Russia. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc. Reuter Textline, Grocer, February 10, 1996).

9 February 1996:
-According to an article appearing in the Agence France Presse, the US Agriculture Department has predicted that the output of wheat in the countries of the former Soviet Union will fall from 60.12 million tons in 1994-1995 to 59.74 million tons in 1995-1996. The department said wheat imports would amount to 9.08 million tons in 1995-1996 against 8.88 million in 1994-1995. Officials at the department expect Russia to produce 30.10 million tons of wheat this year, down from 32.10 million in 1994-1995. Russian corn production, on the other hand, is expected to rise to 1.8 million tons from 900,000. Russian wheat imports are expected to increase from 2.75 million tons to 4.3 million tons. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc. Agence France Presse, February 9, 1996).

-Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Col.-Gen. Vladimir Churanov acknowledged that the military is having problems adequately clothing and feeding its personnel. Churanov said the 1995 military food budget was cut from 3.5 trillion rubles to 1.7 trillion rubles and that in December the Ministry received no money whatsoever. In addition, supplies to troops elsewhere have been cut or interrupted in order to ensure that soldiers in Chechnya receive all they need. (OMRI, No. 29, Part I, February 9, 1996).

8 February 1996:
-First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais charged Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov of making ambiguous remarks regarding Communist intentions toward private property. He accused Zyuganov of saying one thing at home and another abroad. In comments abroad, Zyuganov stressed his party's "social-democratic" goals, emphasizing that the party supported private property and did not have any intentions of renationalizing property. However, in Russia, Zyuganov referred to the communists plan to prosecute instances of "illegal privatization" and the fact that they do not support the selling of land. (OMRI, No. 28, Part I, February 8, 1996).

7 February 1996:
-An economics ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS that the Russian agricultural sector finished 1995 with a loss of two trillion rubles. Experts cited rising prices of resources and services, declining buying ability of consumers, lack of competitiveness of many goods, and poor adaptation of farms to the market economy for the losses. The economics ministry official said that the aformal pace of agrarian reforms has failed to alter production relations. He also voiced considerable concern over the rapid growth of food imports, which reached 40 percent in 1995. Adding to that concern, experts at the Russian Institute for Studies of Market Conditions noted that countries importing more than 30 percent of their food become dependent on swings in the world food market and imports. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc. The Russian Information Agency, ITAR-TASS, February 7, 1996).

6 February 1996:
-Rumors of an intended Russian purchase of 2.5 million tons of US wheat caused the price of US wheat to leap in trading on Friday. An official close to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha denied that there had been talks between the US and Russia about grain credits during the minister's recent trip to the US. Experts later conceded that the jump in prices may have been the result of a Brazilian grain buy of around 200,000-300,000 tons. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Central Data, Inc. Reuter Textline, Lloyds List, February 6, 1996).

2-9 February 1996:
-Alexander Zaveryukha harshly criticized the Agrarian Party of Russia for failing to form a single lobby to defend private and collective farmers. Zaveryukha accused Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin of putting his own personal agenda above the needs of farmers. He attacked APR leaders for opposing, what he called, normal land circulation. Zaveryukha explained that 8 Russian regions are already freely selling land, but that their experience shows that the demand for land is low. Land has not become, therefore, the subject of speculation. Zaveryukha said the APR is "overpoliticized and, increasingly, anti-reform" and needs to be replaced by an organization that would represent all farmers, private and collective. His proposal, offered to a meeting of farm lobbies, ranging from the APR and the radical Agrarian Union to the private farming association AKKOR, received mixed reviews. Nonetheless, a constitutive meeting for the new union will be held on February 24. First Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Vladimir Shcherbak has been asked to chair it. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 6, February 2-9, 1996, p. 2).

-Deputy Prime Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Zaveryukha, denied reports that he is resigning. Zaveryukha said that he would continue, for the time being, to double as farm minister and deputy minister. Zaveryukha was appointed acting Agriculture Minister after Yeltsin fired Alexander Nazarchuk and speculation has been rife that Zaveryukha's dismissal would follow. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 6, February 2-9, 1996, p. 2)

-According to the Russian Statistics Committee, the number of private farms in Russia barely changed last year. The number increased from 280,000 by January 1, 1996, from 279,200 on the same date in 1995 and 270,000 in 1994. Private farmers hold 12 million hectares of land and account for 5.2 percent of the farmland in general, 6.1 percent for arable land, and 2 percent of agricultural land. Over one-half of private farmers hold 20 ha or less, and one-fifth own between 21 and 50 ha of land. Only 8 percent own over 100 ha of land. Last year, private farmers posted output down 28 percent for grain at 2.987 million tons. However, they doubled sunflower seed output to 517,000 tons. Production increased for sugarbeets, by approximately 50 percent to 728,000 tons, potatoes, vegetables, meat, and milk. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 6, February 2-9, 1996, p. 3).

AREAS OF INTEREST

UKRAINE

8 February 1996:
-A Russian presidential decree takes effect on February 18 which levies excise taxes on goods manufactured in Ukraine. The tax may seriously affect Ukraine's export of alcohol, tobacco, and cars. The decree follows Ukraine's lifting of excise taxes from all goods exported to Russia, making them cheaper than Russian commodities. (OMRI, No. 28, Part I, February 8, 1996).

-In defense of his reform plans, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told farm and food plant managers last week that the government would no longer subsidize money-losing farms. Kuchma told the managers that reforms were not to blame for the collapse in farm output because there have been no reforms in Ukraine. He argued that Ukrainian agriculture was in better shape than most sectors of the economy to pull out of the crisis. However, Kuchma did agree to sign a law outlining special rules for farm and food plant privatization. He said collective farm managers are due to meet February 19-20 to "check agricultural policy once more." (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 6, February 2-9, 1996, p. 5)

-In a move to register their protest of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's agriculture policy, 1500 Crimean farmers marched against the Ukrainian peninsula's government. Farmers, organized by the local Agro-industrial Workers Union, voted to ask Kuchma to appoint Vasily Kisilyov, who runs a local agribusiness, as prime minister. The local union chairman, Anatoly Polyakov, said output over the past four years had fallen 27 percent for grain, 37 percent for vegetables, 23 percent for fruit and berries, and 55 percent for grapes. Livestock herds have halved and milk yields are down 56 percent. Union leaders planned to make February 13 a day of protest at government neglect of agriculture. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 6, February 2-9, 1996, p. 5).

TAJIKISTAN

8 February 1996:
-According to a report released by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Tajikistan faces a serious food shortage. FAO reports claim that Tajikistan has roughly 40 percent of the required food grain imports necessary this year. Tajikistan's emphasis on cotton and declining production in its main suppliers, Russia and Kazakhstan, have contributed to the shortage situation. Tajik officials have requested that the US government speed up delivery of 20,000 tons of grain. (OMRI, No. 28, Part I, February 8, 1996).

BULGARIA

7 February 1996:
-Todor Todorov, chairman of the parliamentary agriculture committee and a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, was found shot in the head at his home in Malina in northeastern Bulgaria. Todorov remains in a deep coma after an operation at the hospital in Dobrich. Officials at the Bulgarian Agriculture Ministry think Todorov may have attempted suicide. According to Petar Komarov, a high-official at the ministry, Todorov had received telephone threats against himself and his family. The Bulgarian media linked the incident to the criticism of the agriculture committee and the ongoing grain crisis in Bulgaria. Bulgaria's Socialist Party declined to comment. (OMRI, No. 27, Part I, February 7, 1996).

ROMANIA

6 February 1996:
-Romania produced 19.8 million tons of grain last year, an increase of 1.7 million tons from last year. Its rye crop rose to 7.7 million tons, 1.5 million more tons than last year. The National Statistics Board also reported maize production up 600,000 tons to 9.9 million tons. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc. Reuter Textline, Lloyds List, February 6, 1996).