RUSAG-L: Current Events #83

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 October 1996:
-The current exchange is listed at R5435 per dollar. (The Washington Post, October 15, 1996).

9 October 1996:
-After a closed session of the Federation Council, Finance Minister Livshits told ITAR-TASS that emergency measures would be taken to ensure that food and fuel supplies reach military bases. Livshits said regions that make food deliveries to the military would be compensated by the government in the form of tax arrear waivers. Finance Minister Livshits and Defense Minister Gen. Igor Rodionov have differed on the reasons why budget money, designated and released for the military, has not reached military units. Livshits said the new government policy was designed to solve the situation without directly addressing or resolving the disagreement. (OMRI, Part I, No. 196, October 9, 1996).

-Kyrgyz and Uzbek environmental agencies have agreed to cooperate in cleaning-up the Kyrgyz town of Mayli-Suu, which has more than twenty radioactive waste sites that may be contaminating the Mayli-Suu River. The Mayli-Suu River furnishes water for various canals that irrigate the fertile Ferghana Valley. (OMRI, Part I, No. 196, October 9, 1996).

4 October 1996:
-Thousands of residents in Russia s Far North may have to be evacuated for the winter because of critically low stocks of fuel and food. According to Security Council Secretary Lebed, a number of settlements in Magadan, Chukotka, and the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug will, most certainly, have to be evacuated. There are also problems in the Far East. At the Zvezda nuclear submarine repair plant at Bolshoi Kamen, food and fuel supplies for the winter are only at 10 percent of the required level. (OMRI, Part I, No. 193, October 4, 1996).

4-11 October 1996:
-The Russian government will barter 400,000 tons of food grain for 77,000 tons of Uzbek cotton through grain procurement giant Roskhleboprodukt and textile concern Rostekstil. The government will finance the project through special budget loans. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 3).

-Nearly 2,000 farmers died in work-related accidents in Russia in 1995, down from the number in 1994. The Ministry of Agriculture reported 112,167 accidents and 1,955 fatalities in 1995, 63,398 fewer accidents than in 1994 and 996 fewer deaths. Officials say the decline in deaths is attributed to the general downturn in output rather than to safety improvements. In addition, poor safety monitoring may have actually brought down the number of accidents because farm managers neglected to report them. High accident rates are blamed on worn-out equipment and underfinancing. Additional statistics show that one in three workplace accidents occur in agriculture. One in three people hurt in farm accidents were drunk, and the largest number of fatalities occurred among tractor and truck drivers. A third of agriculture work poses a health problem. More than 70 percent of farm workers, most of them women, are engaged in unmechanized labor. Officials hope that a new ministry workplace program for 1996-1997 and a special technical workplace safety program for 1996-2000 will improve safety. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 4).

-Moscow Deputy Mayor Vitaly Morozov said the federal finance ministry has yet to make money available for the city of Moscow to buy food. The Moscow city government was promised 850 billion rubles to buy food. He noted that the situation in Moscow is exacerbated by the fact that around 3 million and 3.5 million people visit Moscow daily and buy foodstuffs in city stores. Morozov said the city is forced to seek bank loans, use promissory notes, and other means to overcome the situation. Vegetable stocking, according to Morozov, has not been a problem. Moscow has stocked enough beet root and carrot and 67 percent of all the potatoes it needs to get through the winter. He attributed the successful vegetable stocking to help from the Federal Security Service, the Federal Border Service, and the interior and defense industries. 4500 servicemen helped gather the root crops.

-Alexander Zaveryukha, Russia s Deputy Prime Minister of Agriculture, announced during a trip to the Omsk region that he expects Russian farmers to harvest 85 million tons of grain, bunkerweight, and 72 million tons, cleanweight. As of October 5, farmers had harvested 63.5 million tons. Zaveryukha noted that bad weather and underfinancing had hampered the harvest in southern Russia and Siberia. Up to 12 centimeters of snow flattened crops in the Omsk region, where only 56 percent of the area had been harvested by October 3. The total output in Siberia is forecast at around 15 million tons. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 6).

-As of October 5, Russian farmers had harvested 39 million ha or 81 percent of the crop area, compared to 41.2 million ha or 83 percent of the crop area at the same time last year. However, bunker weight measured 63.6 million tons, up from the 60.2 million tons in 1995, due primarily to an increase in yield. Yields rose to 1.63 tons per ha this year from the 1.46 tons per ha recorded last year. Harvesting is not yet completed and is going very slowly in Western and Eastern Siberia, which account for 3.1 million ha of the 3.8 million ha of grain that remains to be harvested. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 6).

30 September-October 4, 1996:
-According to Gennady Voronin, deputy minister for the defense industry, Russian defense plants have become the main supplier for the nation s farm processing industry. Voronin said 272 defense firms, including 84 research and development bureaus and 188 plants are currently working on new farm machinery. He noted that defense firms had already produced 1200 new products and that the quality of processing equipment had improved much over recent years, thanks to the technology and resources brought from the defense industry. Voronin also acknowledged the help of foreign firms. Agroprommash-96, a Moscow fair to promote processing machinery, attracted 160 Russian firms and 140 foreign firms from over 20 countries. Likewise, another 150 firms from 19 countries will attend the Upakovka-96 fair geared toward packaging. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 40, September 30-October 4, 1996, p. 4).

25 September 1996:
-Russia s dairy production has fallen considerably in the last few years and is losing much of the market to cheaper imports. In 1995, Russia produced 39.3 million tons of milk, down 3 million tons on the 1994 levels. In the first quarter of 1996, the figure was 6.5459 million tons, seven percent less than in the same period in 1995. Output decreased more dramatically on the government run and collective farms than in household operations. In 1993, government and collective farms supplied 64.3 percent of Russia s milk production, but, in 1995, they supplied only 56.7 percent. Farmer households accounted for 34.6 percent of milk output in 1993 and 41.7 percent in 1995. Overall milk sales fell by 10 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. Compared with 1993, butter output fell by 57 percent; dairy products by 44 percent, and cheese production plummeted by 69 percent. Moreover, Russian dairy factories must compete with cheaper overseas items, which have nicer packaging, greater accessibility, and cheaper prices. In 1995, Russia imported 241,000 tons of butter, which equals 60 percent of its own output. In addition, domestic dairy products are an average 13 percent more than the imports. In the first quarter of 1996, retail prices rose by 6.9 percent; wholesale prices registered a 2.4 percent climb. Over the first six months of 1996, the price of fermented dairy items increased by 15.7 percent; cottage cheese by 9.5 percent, and hard cheese varieties by 11 percent. (Nexis\Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc. RusData DiaLine-BizEkon News, September 25, 1996).

20 September 1996:
-The chairman for the local committee for agriculture in Bryansk Region in western Russia, told Interfax News Agency that a serious shortage of potassium fertilizer could cause the content of cesium in agricultural produce to rise in his area. He said the situation applied to food grown in the southwestern districts of the region which were contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. According to a departmental head at the Agriculture and Food Ministry, the content of cesium in plants, milk, and meat depend on the quantity of potassium fertilizers used. Last year, Russian farmers applied 17 kg of mineral fertilizers to one hectare of land, compared with 24 kg in 1994 and 46 kg in 1993. (Nexis\Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc. The BBC, September 20, 1996).

AREAS OF INTEREST

KAZAKSTAN

10 October 1996:
-According to the Kazakstan Agriculture Ministry, Kazak farmers have harvested enough grain this season to, not only meet the country s requirements, but allow for considerable exports. Farmers have thrashed more than 11.5 million metric tons of grain, an increase over last year s figures of 1.5 million tons. (OMRI, Part I, No. 197, October 10, 1996).

BULGARIA

8 October 1996:
-Bulgarian Prime Minister Gechev said Bulgarian officials have only two weeks left to complete the first large cash privatization deal, the first voucher auction under mass privatization, and court proceedings for 64 impending bankruptcies to qualify for a $116 million standby tranche from the IMF. Prime Minister Gechev also noted that Bulgaria had to find a way to finance grain sowing before the end of October or face disastrous consequences this winter. The IMF standby tranche was originally scheduled to be released in September. (OMRI, Part II, No. 195, October 8, 1996).

4 October 1996:
-Representatives of the European Union said the EU would help Bulgaria alleviate its ongoing grain crisis if the government sped up agricultural reforms. An EU representative in Bulgaria told media sources that Bulgaria could receive supplies for this year through commercial credits negotiated with individual EU states but that future supplies would be linked to progress in agricultural reforms. (OMRI, Part II, No. 193, October 4, 1996).

1 October 1996:
-Bulgarian officials requested help from the European Union in dealing with their country s ongoing grain crisis. Bulgaria s Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov and Agriculture Minister Krastyo Trendafilov said the country needs 450,000 metric tons of grain and 700,000 tons of fodder. The Bulgarians asked for grain shipments and commodity credits under preferential terms to be repaid in three years. This year s harvest, approximately 1.9 million tons, is the lowest in 10 years. Bread prices have risen fivefold since the beginning of 1996. A large percentage of Bulgarians think the situation will deteriorate in the winter. (OMRI, Part II, No. 190, October 1, 1996).

BELARUS

4-11 October 1996:
-Belarus farmers expect to harvest between 10.7 million tons and 11.5 million tons of potatoes this year, compared to 9.5 million tons in 1995. Yields are averaging 14.8 tons per ha and have reached as high as 25 tons per ha in some areas. Last year, the average yield was 1.31 tons per ha. Unfortunately, farmers are finding it hard to sell the potatoes. Processing and trading firms do not have enough money to make major purchases, and, as of October 1, the government had purchased only 82,000 tons of the targeted 370,000 tons. Belarus plans to export between 250,000-300,000 tons of potatoes, but, so far, it has shipped out just 24,000 tons. At the point of production, Belarussian potatoes cost around 10 or 11 cents per kilo. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 5).

UKRAINE

4 October 1996:
-Russia finally implemented the 20 percent VAT on Ukrainian imports and plans to set up checkpoints on the main roads used to transport Ukrainian goods. However, Belarus, which has a customs union with Russia, refused to impose the VAT, leaving Belarus open for Ukrainian exporters to reroute their goods. (OMRI, Part II, No. 193, October 4, 1996).

4-11 October 1996:
-Ukraine will produce only 3 million tons of sugar this year, compared to 3.4 million tons in 1995. Agricultural officials blame the low harvest on bad weather and input shortages which brought yields down to about 3 tons per hectare. Sugar sold at $450-$470 per ton in early September. Experts blame a lack of new export markets and Russia s decision to impose sugar import quotas for the downturn in prices. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 4).

UZBEKISTAN

4-11 October 1996:
-Uzbekistan harvested only 2.743 million tons of grain this year, almost half of last year s total of 4.5 million tons. 2.532 million tons of all grain harvested were wheat. The Uzbek Ministry of Food and Agriculture blamed the poor harvest on a severe winter and a summer drought which destroyed nearly half the crop. Uzbekistan needs to produce 3.8-4 million tons of grain annually, with a stand-by reserve of 5 million tons, to become self-sufficient in grain. Uzbek officials said ministry specialists would concentrate on improving production by increasing yields, which have risen from 1.67 tons per ha in 1994 to 1.92 tons per ha in 1995 to an average yield of 2.07 tons per ha this year. Uzbekistan has a population of 22 million. (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol V, Issue 41, October 4-11, 1996, p. 8).

I apologize for the delay in getting RusAg online. I was in China, and the jet lag was worse than I anticipated.

Betty Brown