RUSAG-L: Current Events #50

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.

9 February 1995:
-The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R4133 per
dollar.  (The Washington Post, February 9, 1995)

8 February 1995:
-IMF officials failed to reach an agreement with Russia on a $6.4
billion standby loan.  Russian government officials had hoped to
close the gap in its proposed 1995 budget with over $10 billion
in funds from international organizations.  Several government
decisions were cited for the failure of the talks, namely, the
State Duma's decision to increase the minimum wage from $5 to $13
a month and expenses associated with the war in Chechnya.  In
addition, IMF officials pointed to Russia's failure to liberalize
oil exports, a threatened miners' strike, problems associated
with the proposed 1995 budget, and the fact that budget decisions
often emanate from the president's private office without the
knowledge or approval of the government.  IMF officials expect
talks to resume in two weeks.  (OMRI, February 8, 1995)

-The budget committee of the Russian State Duma has approved a
1.5% special tax for supporting agriculture and coal mining.
Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax the committee
is recommending that another special tax be levied and its
expected revenues be directed to "needy branches of the economy."
The second reading of the draft budget was passed by the Duma on
January 25.  Zadornov expects the third reading to take place on
February 17 or February 22.  (OMRI, February 8, 1995)

-Russian banking officials reacted with alarm to rumors the
government might implement a fixed ruble rate.  Sergei Pugachov,
Chairman of the International Industrial Bank, said a fixed rate
would promote an increase in illegal transactions by non-banking
structures, promote the creation of a black currency market, and
result in a federal tax revenue decline.  However, Russian
bankers noted that they would support any government decision in
order not to further destabalize the economy.  (OMRI, February 8,

6 February 1995:
-Consumer food prices rose by 21.1% in January.  Overall, meat,
milk, and egg prices grew by 27% to 36%.  Consumer prices in
January stood at 17.8% compared with 16.4% in December.  (OMRI,
February 6, 1995)

5 February 1995:
-According to a report from Khabarovsk, a World Bank delegation
is studying the condition of forests, the marketing of forest
products, and the transportation of timber in the Amur region.
The delegation will prepare a report on Russia's forestry policy,
so the World Bank can decide if it wants to invest in Russia's
forestry sector.  (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc.,
TASS, February 5, 1995)

4 February 1995:
-Specialists from the Russian Sanitary and Epidemiological
Committee are investigating reports of food poisoning connected
with Vitamin D-3.  Reports of such poisoning have been received
from the Tuman and Chita regions, where at least a thousand
people have been effected.  Vitamin D-3 is the solution used to
prepare feed for poultry.  Officials suspect violations in
storing the oily solution may have led to contamination of the
feed.  (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc., TASS,
February 4, 1995)

3 February 1995:
-Deputy Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Efremov announced that
Russia would send 1077 tractors, 1575 plows, cultivators, and
other farm implements to Chechnya this spring.  In addition, the
ministry plans to send 16.5 billion rubles ($4 million) worth of
farm machinery parts and 23.9 billion rubles ($5.9 million) worth
of fuel and lubricants.  Seeds and fertilizers will also be sent
in an effort to salvage the republic's farming season.  (OMRI,
February 3, 1995)

-The Russian Ministry of Agriculture and Food issued a report
listing target figures for Russian agricultural production in
1995.  According to those figures, Russia should produce 82
million tons of grain, including 40 million tons of food wheat.
In 1994, Russia harvested 81.3 million tons and 32.1 million tons
respectively.  The report also noted expected increases in sugar
beet, oil seed, and flax production as well as relatively small
increases in potato and vegetable output.  The report, which was
prepared and submitted in a draft government resolution to the
cabinet, also called for financial support for the agrarian
sector to be maintained at last year's level.  (Nexis/Lexis
through Mead Data Central, Inc., British Broadcasting
Corporation, February 3, 1995)

27 January-3 February 1995:
-Russia, which produced just 1.0 million tons of beet sugar this
year, will soon decide when and if to import raw sugar for 1995.
The government cannot afford to pay for imported sugar from this
year's budget and is now considering other means of financing the
imports.  Despite problems with earlier sugar-for-oil deals,
officials are looking at importing more Cuban sugar on the same
barter system.  Buying sugar on the open market would be very
expensive, and officials are skeptical about their chances of
getting credit from Western companies.  Russia needs
approximately 5 million-5.5 million tons of sugar per year.
(Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, January 27-February 3,
1995, p. 7)

18 January 1995:
-According to various newspaper reports, financial credit is
available to Russia's farmers, but both private and collective
farmers are rejecting it.  The problem is that local
Agroprombanks (Agro-Industrial Banks), which buy centralized
credits from the Central Bank, will only make credits available
if property is pledged as collateral.  The peasants, however,
have nothing left to pledge.  In the meantime, peasants and
banking officials keep waiting for a decision from above to help
them sort out their repayment and credit problems.  (Nexis/Lexis
through Mead Data Central, Inc., The Current Digest of the Post-
Soviet Press, January 18, 1995)

Area of Interest:  Croatia

-Croatian Agrarian Party leader, Drago Stipac, died from a long
illness on February 5.  Stipac's Croatian Peasant Party was the
most important political party in Croatia between the First and
Second World War.  Stipac had tried unsuccessfully to return the
Peasant Party to its interwar prominence after the collapse of
communism in Croatia.  Stipac was jailed by both the fascists and
communists for his political beliefs.  (OMRI, February 7, 1995)

Interesting Note:  The fishing industry is becoming an
increasingly important sector of Russian agriculture. At a recent
trade-show in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Russian businessmen were
exhibiting their wares, I asked two of them what they considered
the most marketable Russian agricultural products.  They answered
in unison, fish.  One of the reasons for the interest in fish is
that the Moscow based firm, Novistika, and the Novosibirsk firm,
Katran, have developed a technique for fish skin tanning.
Specialists in Novistika use salmon skin and those in Katran use
skin from carp.  Analysts believe the exotic materials have no
counterparts on the world market.  Some western firms in England
and Italy have expressed their intent to acquire large patches of
the fish leather.  The problem is that manufacturers, aware of
the unique nature of their product, are asking exorbitant prices
for the commodities.  For example, a pair of women's carp skin
boots is priced between $350 and $500.  The technique is, of
course, patented.  (Information on fish tanning taken from
Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc., Reuter Textline,
Novecon, January 11, 1995)