RUSAG-L: Current Events #34

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 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Daily Report (RFE/RL), 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

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.

20 September 1994:
-The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R2301 per
dollar. (The Washington Post, September 20, 1994)

15 September 1994:
-A session of the governmental Commission for Operational
Questions met to discuss the declining sales and production of
Russian vodka.  Reports submitted to the meeting, chaired by
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, blamed high excise
taxes for the decline, arguing that the duties made it impossible
for Russian distilleries to compete with foreign vodka brands.
Profits on illegally produced cheap liquor sold on the black
market make up the equivalent of almost 50% of Russia's total
excise duties.  The session ended inconclusively. (RFE/RL,
September 15, 1994)

2-9 September 1994:
-Following talks with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Espy,
Russian Minister for Agriculture and Food, Viktor Khlystun,
announced that Russia wants to buy limited amounts of grain from
the United States.  Khlystun said Russia would buy small amounts
of those grains which are in short supply in Russia and grain for
the needs of the Far East.  During the first seven months of this
year, Russia has imported 1.8 million tons of grain compared with
11.1 million tons for 1993 and 25.5 million tons in 1992.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who also met with Espy, said
Russia would be able to export some of her own grain reserves,
such as rye and barley to other CIS states and beyond, plus sell
a certain amount of its wheat harvest. (Interfax Food and
Agriculture Report, September 2-9, 1994, p. 2)

-Ivan Gridasov, the official at the Russian Ministry of
Agriculture and Food in charge of crop farming, said that Russian
farmers were still two weeks behind the harvesting schedule.  By
September 6, farmers had harvested 48% of the land they had sown
to grain.  Collective farms accounted for 50 million hectares and
private farms for another 7 million ha.  In addition, farmers had
threshed only 47 million tons of grain or 20 million tons less
than last year.  Yields averaged 1.98 tons per hectare. (Interfax
Food and Agriculture Report, September 2-9, 1994, p. 2)

-Subsidies for Russian farmers are running at 43.4% of the level
stipulated in the federal budget.  According to the Russian
Ministry of Agriculture and Food, farmers had received 919
billion rubles of subsidies by mid-August, 163.9 billion of those
rubles in the second week of August.  Farmers get subsidies to
develop seed growing and livestock farming, plus subsidies to
compensate spending on fertilizer and machinery. (Interfax Food
and Agriculture Report, September 2-9, 1994, p. 3)

September 1994:
-The second phase of Russia's privatization program has already
begun to take effect in some areas.  Under the second phase,
foreign investors are permitted to buy controlling shares in
Russian enterprises, including land and buildings.  In some
cases, foreigners may purchase all of small enterprises.  The
private settlements must be paid with rubles, not vouchers.  In
Moscow, the land itself still cannot be privatized. (Central
European Business Information Service, September 1994, Vol 1, No.
9, p. 11)

29 August 1994:
-The export of timber from the Siberian forests, which cover 5.9
million square kilometers, earns the Russian government $1.5 to
$2.0 billion a year.  The Russians manage the major foreign
timber operations, sometimes with the help of South an North
Korean companies.  Cut trees include:  elm, spruce, ash, oak,
larch, and Korean pine.  Other companies, such as the U.S.
company, Weyerhauser, are expected to enter the Siberian arena
soon. (Inter Press Service, August 29, 1994 as reported by
Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc.)

3 August 1994:
-Another consequence of the economic crisis in Russia is the
cutbacks in fire protection for Russian forests.  A lack of money
has left detachments that protect forests from fires with only
50% to 60% of the fire-extinguishing equipment and vehicles that
they need.  As a result, a number of fires get out of control
each year and threaten communities and industrial facilities.
About 1.5 million hectares of forest have perished in the past
five years in Russia.  55% of the losses was caused by forest
fires. (The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, August 3,
1994, as reported by Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc.)

20 June 1994:
-The total amount of wood materials produced in Russia in 1990
was 75,183,000 cubic meters.  Despite the high output, Russia is
in great need of modern forestry equipment.  Only 40% of the
country's needs were met by local forestry equipment
manufacturers.  Plus, experts estimate that 48% of the equipment
in use is outdated.  Also, some forestry regions are on the brink
of bankruptcy due to a heavy tax burden imposed on the industry
and the economic instability during the transition period to a
market economy.  Therefore, the current task facing the Russian forestry
industry is survival. (Market Reports, June 20, 1994, as reported by
Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc.)

Area of Interest:  Kazakhstan

15 September 1994:
-Reports of imminent increases in the price of bread has
unleashed panic in Kazakhstan.  Customers who had been standing
in line for hours in Shymkent broke store windows and looted one
bakery.  The Kazak government has been discussing removal of
price controls on bread for months, since it can no longer afford to
subsidize the commodity. State prices for bread generally run three to five
times cheaper than production costs. (RFE/RL, September 15, 1994)

Area of Interest:  Poland

15 September 1994:
-The Polish Sejm approved a policy paper outlining a six-year
plan to modernize Polish agriculture.  The plan envisions the
survival of 700,000-800,000 private farms in Poland.  The farms,
which are expected to modernize, should increase production to a
level that would allow their owners to live off the land.
Inefficient farmers would be allowed to keep their farms for
private needs but would be encouraged to seek employment
elsewhere. (RFE/RL, September 15, 1994)

Russian Forestry

Two-thirds of Russia's surface is covered by forests.  The
forests account for a substantial portion of the world timber
resources.  A quarter of Russian wood exports-some five million
cubic meters-goes to Japan.  Other importers include:  Britain,
Finland, China, Austria, India, France, Italy, Germany, the two
Koreas, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Sweden.  The reduction in
Russian forest areas, particularly in the Botcha area, threatens
the endangered Siberian tigers which number less than 250.  The
average male needs an area of about 1,000 square kilometers to
hunt for food.  The Botcha area is also home to a variety of
bears, reindeer, sable, salmon, and migratory bird species.

Note:  In regard to Russian Forestry

One of the subscribers to RusAg requested information on Russian
forestry.  I hope all of you have found the new current events'
pieces helpful.  If anyone else has a specific interest, I will
be glad to expand my research in other agricultural areas.