RUSAG-L: Current Events #75

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.

28 March 1996:
-The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R4835 per dollar. (The Washington Post, March 28, 1996)

-ITAR-TASS reported on March 27 that Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov had denounced President Yeltsin's policies which support the buying and selling of land. Zyuganov said he would not support such policies if he came to power and claimed they would lead to the "killing" of state and collective farms. (OMRI, No. 63, Part I, March 28, 1996)

-IMF President Michel Camdessus warned the Russian government that the recently approved $10.2 billion loan, the second largest in its history, could be suspended if Russia departed from the conditions on which the loan was agreed. The loan was guaranteed in order to help Russia build a market economy. Camdessus said that, while the IMF would not interfere with Russian domestic policies, the organization would not remain indifferent if any future government adopted policies inconsistent with marketization. (Broadcast, March 28, 1996, Monitor, Vol II, No. 62).

27 March 1996:
-Following talks in Washington, D.C., poultry exports to Russia continued. The dispute was reportedly solved when Russian negotiators accepted that U.S. exports were safe, and the U.S. agreed to tighten inspection procedures. The two sides will now hold talks on lowering the customs duties recently imposed by Moscow on U.S. poultry imports. (Broadcast, March 27, 1996, Monitor, Vol II, No. 61).

26 March 1996:
-Russia and Japan failed to agree on conditions for Japan's salmon and trout fishing in Russian territorial waters near the southern Kurile Islands. Russia is also involved in a dispute over fishing quotas in the Atlantic and North Pacific. Russia is challenging the decision by the Northwestern Atlantic to cut its fishing quotas from over 60 percent in 1995 (50-55,000 metric tons) to 24 percent this year. (OMRI, No. 61, Part I, March 26, 1996).

21 March 1996:
-The Russian Duma voted to raise the minimum raise 20 percent to 75,900 rubles a month ($16) as of April 1. The Duma also overrode a Federation Council veto to raise the minimum pension by 20 percent as of March 1. Government officials protested the Duma action, saying it was unaffordable and would only serve to delay pension payments. (OMRI, No. 58, Part I, March 21, 1996).

15-22 March 1996:
-Last week, the Agrarian Party expelled its most visible member, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha. Zaveryukha had increasingly found himself at odds with the Party platform, so the move was not unexpected. Zaveryukha accused the Party of political extremism, of abandoning the government at its most difficult time. He supported Yeltsin's controversial land decree which allows for the buying and selling of land, a policy bitterly opposed by the Agrarians. Agrarian Party leader, Mikhail Lapshin, plans to actively oppose the government's land policy, which he calls "a devastating blow to agriculture and a direct threat to food security." One Party strategy calls for farmers to converge on Moscow on April 10 to picket the Russian White House and the residence of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 2).

-Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha announced in Smolensk that the government may write off loans made in 1993 and 1994 to farmers at interest rates of 215 percent annually. The principal and interests of those loans now amounts to 18 trillion rubles. The government has already extended repayment to 1998 and then for an additional 10 years. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p.3).

-According to Minister of Fuel and Energy Yuri Shafranik, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered oil companies to make fuel and lubricants available to farmers against government tax exemption. Farmers will pay for the supplies from next year's harvest. The Ministry of Fuel backs the policy;
oil companies have been lobbying the government for tax exemptions to cover their costs under the scheme. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 4)

-The Russian government will import 600,000 tons of raw sugar at a cost of $215 million this year. The project will be financed by domestic commercial banks under guarantees from the Ministry of Finance against the farm budget. On orders from the government, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will choose financiers and importers to carry out the plan. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 9)

-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha defended President Yeltsin's land decree as a much needed boost to Russian agriculture. Chernomyrdin said the right to own land was entrenched in the Russian constitution, but the Duma had been unable to draft and pass a land code that would spell out what rights Russians have to their land. He said Yeltsin just got tired of waiting and introduced his own legislation via presidential decree. The controversial decree allows 40 million Russians, 12 million of them rural, to sell the land to which they have often had little more than formal title. The decree also contains a rider under which land can be confiscated from those who do not work it. Zaveryukha criticized as groundless Agrarian Party claims that the decree's provisions are -unconstitutional. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 8).

AKKOR, Russia's private farming lobby, praised President Yeltsin's land decree, saying it came just in time to stop left-wing deputies in the Duma from forcing a prohibitive Land Code through the Duma that would limit land rights. AKKOR and the Union of Russian Landowners called on rural Russians to support Yeltsin in the presidential elections so farmers would not be forced to give up their property. Since 1991, about 40 million Russians have gained ownership over their land, including 12 million rural residents. There are 280,000 private farms covering 12 million ha of land, 8 million ha of it arable. The average size of a private farm in Russia is 43 ha. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 8).

-Nizhny Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov said his region plans to spend 31 billion rubles to privatize 80 collective farms in 26 districts this year under a program first pioneered by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank. In addition, regional support will allow unsuccessful private farms to receive loans of 150,000 rubles per ha, either interest-free or at 25 percent annually. Some farmers may qualify for direct government giveaways. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 12)

8-15 March 1996:
-Under a recently adopted federal farm development program, Russian farmers plan to irrigate another 270,000 ha by the end of the century, an annual 54,000 ha compared with only 5,500 ha in 1995. Experts believe the program will cost as much as 2 trillion rubles to implement in 1996 alone. Officials and academic scholars who drafted the program also expect Russia to extensively overhaul its irrigation systems. In 1995, Russia repaired just 15,700 ha of irrigation systems. The program also envisions efforts to bring water to 2.3 million ha of pasture and lay 1,700 kilometers of rural water supply pipes by the year 2000. Russia put just 100 kilometers of such pipes in place last year. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 11, March 8-15, 1996, p. 3)

AREAS OF INTEREST

LITHUANIA

28 March 1996:
-The Lithuanian Party approved an amendment to the constitution last week allowing the sale of non-agricultural land to foreigners. However, the Lithuanian National Progress Party has now proposed holding a referendum on prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners. The prohibition of the sale of land to foreigners would prevent Lithuania from joining the EU. (OMRI, No. 63, Part II, March 28, 1996).

CROATIA

28 March 1996:
-The Croatian Peasant Party staged a demonstration protesting imports, smuggling, and commodity prices. Farmers blocked border crossings with tractors and demanded Croatia halt imports until it can be determined what farmers can produce domestically. Farmers said imports and middlemen have driven up the cost of food and threaten to ruin Croatian agriculture. (OMRI, No. 63, Part II, March 28, 1996).

BULGARIA

27 March 1996:
-According to Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Svetoslav Shivarov there is no grain shortage in Bulgaria; silos and mills are filled with flour and grain. Millers claim, however, that there is only enough grain for one week. Videnov explained the discrepancy by saying it was just an attempt by private bakeries to drive up the cost of bread. (OMRI, No. 63, Part II, March 28, 1996).

21 March 1996:
-Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev agreed to be the presidential candidate of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union in the upcoming elections. Zhelev also plans to participate in Bulgaria's primary elections. (OMRI, No. 58, Part II, March 21, 1996).

15-22 March 1996:
-Russia and Bulgaria are close to concluding an agreement to restore Soviet-era shipments of Russian timber to Bulgarian wood-processors and furniture makers. Roslesprom, the company which coordinates Russia's timber industry, will also help set up joint logging companies in the Arkhangelsk and Perm regions. In addition, Roslesprom signed a $60,000 contract with Bulgaria's Gora for a trial batch of logs from Tagilles in Nizhny Tagil. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 12, March 15-22, 1996, p. 4)

UKRAINE
-5-18 March 1996:
-Ukrainian toxicologists said American soymeal chicken feed, exported to Ukraine under a $20 million PL-480 loan from USDA, contained excessive toxin levels. The Deputy Director of the Kharkov Chicken Factory noted egg yields had decreased by 20-30 percent within two weeks of using the feed. Vets said the feed contained patulin, a microtoxin, that in some consignments rose to 80 times the norm. In addition, Oleg Malinin, head of the Kharkov Institute of Experimental and Clinical Veterinary Medicine, said a chicken factory in Poltava had also complained of falling egg yields and called for a national veterinary commission to investigate the feed. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 11, March 8-11, 1996, p. 4).