The sources for the information below include, but are not limited to, the following: the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Daily Report (RFE/RL), the Foreign Broadcast Information Service at the Central Intelligence Agency's Central Eurasia Daily Report (FBIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture's AG a.m., Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc., and The Washington Post.
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17 March 1994: -A new political party, Accord for Russia, has been formed by leaders of the Russian Communist Party, the Agrarian Party, and the People's Party of Free Russia. (The People's Party of Free Russia was once headed by former Vice President Alexsandr Rutskoi.) The stated aim of the new party is to stop "mindless reforms" and to preserve "historic Russia." (RFE/RL, March 17, 1994) 16 March 1994: -Sources quoted in Roskomstat by Interfax are reporting a sharp decline in industrial output during the months of January and February. In February alone, output dropped 24.1 percent. These figures may be somewhat lower since output from the private sector is not efficiently accounted for in official statistics. The decline is attributed to the payment arrears crisis, along with decreased imports of machinery and spare parts and seasonal factors. (RFE/RL, March 16, 1994) -Reacting to the January-February figures on industrial output, some legislators in the Duma discussed the possibility of introducing emergency rule in the economy. Legislation, such as wage and price controls and soft credits, cannot be ruled out as viable options. The Federation Council is expected to meet soon with the prime minister on arrears payments and the cabinet will submit its version of the 1994 budget to the Duma presently. (RFE/RL, March 16, 1994) 15 March 1994: -The Russian government issued a decree increasing the average import duty 5 percent. Local retailers and producers have been calling for some type of protectionism since domestic retail prices have approached and sometimes exceeded world prices. Most of the higher duties will apply to agricultural imports. The duties on meat and dairy products will increase 15 percent and the import taxes on white sugar will increase up to 20 percent. In contrast, the duties on imported spare parts, machinery, and accessories will decrease by an average of 5 percent. (RFE/RL, March 15, 1994) 14 March 1994: -In a statement at a conference on agricultural reform in Nizhny Novgorod, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin praised the pilot program in that region which broke many kolkhozes into several smaller private plots. Chernomyrdin hinted that President Boris Yeltsin might issue a decree making the pilot project a model for agricultural decentralization throughout Russia. Reports suggest deputy prime minister Alexsandr Zaveryhuka in charge of the agricultural sector reacted favorably to Chernomyrdin's comments. 11 March 1994: -As the defense ministry moved to oppose cuts in military expenditures, other groups organized to express their demands. Among those included in groups expected to get a sympathetic hearing in the Duma are the collective farmers and others in the inefficient agricultural sector. The current legislature is composed of many members from the rural areas. (-The Washington Post,- March 11, 1994, Section A, p. 18.) 9 March 1994: -According to Interfax, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is forecasting a 1994 grain harvest 89 million tons, compared with 99 million tons in 1993 and 107 million tons in 1992. These figures suggest an import need of about 15 million tons. Shortages of materials, such as seeds, fertilizers, machinery, and spare parts, and high winterkill are being blamed for the anticipated reduction. (RFE/RL, March 9, 1994) 18-24 February 1994: -According to the head of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture's plant growing department, Ivan Gridasov, Russian farmers will only be able to sow 2.5 Mn ha of grain crops in 1994 unless the government pays its debts to the farmers. Gridasov lists severe lack of fertilizer, spare parts for machinery, seed shortages, fuel, and lubricants as some of the handicaps facing farmers in this year's planting season. The government still owes Russian farmers 2 trillion rubles for goods sold to the state in 1993. (Interfax News Agency, Vol. III, Issue 8, 18-25 February) 11-18 February 1994: -Ivan Gridasov, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food's Department of Plant-Growing estimates Russia will need to import around 13-14 Mn tons of grain in 1994. (The Russian government, however, has decided to halve grain imports for 1994.) Gridasov also predicts that Russia's grain demand will grow to 125 Mn tons by the year 2000, forcing the agriculture sector to review its crop area structure and sow more grain maize. (Interfax News Agency, Vol. III, Issue 7, February 11-18, 1994) -The International Monetary Fund (IMF) met with several top Russian officials, including Alexsandr Zaveryukha, Russian deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture. IMF spokesperson, Ernest-Hernandez Cata, said that the talks had convinced him that Russia was sincerely interested in continuing reforms. The IMF is considering whether or not to furnish Russia with the second part of the fund's systemic transformation credit worth $1.5 billion. Russia received the first part, $1.5 billion, last year. Zaveryukha described the meeting as productive and went on to warn that this year's spring crops could fail if the government does not pay its debt to farmers. (Interfax News Agency, Vol. III, Issue 8, 18-25 February 1994) Areas of Interest: Hungary and Moldova 17 March 1994: -The Hungarian Central Statistical Office registered a $3.6 billion trade deficit for 1994. A 30 percent increase in food imports and a 16 percent rise in consumer goods imports accounted for the overall increase in imports by 30 percent. The value of exports declined by 3 percent and the volume by 10 percent. One of the factors contributing to the weakening of exports was a 20 percent decline in agricultural products. (RFE/RL, March 17, 1994) 17 March 1994: -In an effort to repay its gas debt of 126 billion rubles to Russia, Moldova will ship 30 billion rubles worth of "high- quality" agricultural produce to Russia. Moldova is calling for the removal of all trade barriers between CIS countries, since the Moldovan government claims customs and excise taxes imposed by Russia on Moldovan imports deprived the country of the means to pay for Russian fuel. (RFE/RL, March 17, 1994)