RUSAG-L: Current Events #55

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.


3 May 1995:
-The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R5116 per
dollar.  (The Washington Post, May 3, 1995)


2 May 1995:
-The Finance Ministry and Central Bank's press service report
estimated the inflation rate for April at 8%.  This rate compares
to 17.8% in January and 8.9% in March.  Federal revenues totaled
32.1 trillion rubles and spending amounted to 39.7 trillion
rubles.  The deficit amounted to 7.6 trillion rubles or 3.3% of
GDP (gross national product).  Officials claim that the issuance
of short-term state bonds and technical credits in the first
quarter helped to cover the federal deficit and expect them to be
a major instrument in shaping domestic state debt in 1995.
(OMRI, May 2, 1995)

-According to Goskomstat (the State Statistics Committee),
Russia's industrial, transportation, and agricultural enterprises
lowered their wage debt in the first quarter of 1995.  Industrial
enterprises, such as machine-building and fuel and energy
enterprises, accounted for approximately 54% of the total debt of
5.687 billion rubles as of April 1.  (OMRI, May 2, 1995)


27 April 1995:
-Alexander Zaveryukha, Deputy Prime Minister of Agriculture, said
the Russian government, in an effort to support the farm sector,
plans to increase import duties levied on food imports.  The
import rate for meat will increase from 8% to 15% and butter from
15% to 20%.  Rates for sugar will be as high as 20%.  Officials
predict the duty hike will add an additional 6.5 trillion rubles
to the 13.3 trillion ruble government appropriation for the
agriculture sector.  (OMRI, April 27, 1995)


26 April 1995:
-Political experts are predicting that Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin
will lead a new left-center bloc.  The coalition is expected to
include Mikhail Shmakov's Federation of Independent Trade Unions,
Vasily Lipitsky's Social Democratic Union, the Russian United
Industrial Party, Yury Petrov's Union of Realists, and Lyudmila
Vartazarova's Socialist Worker's Party.  Rybkin, a member of the
Agrarian Party, would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Rybkin did announce, however, that he plans to discuss the
Agrarian Party's joining the group with Party leader Mikhail
Lapshin.  The bloc will seek to attract votes that might
otherwise go to Zhirinovsky's party, the communists, and former
Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava.  (OMRI, April 26,
1995)

-Rossiiskie vesti reacted positively to the appearance of Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's new party and the new left-center
bloc associated with Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin.  Radio Rossii,
however, said voters would have a difficult time distinguishing
between the platforms of the two blocs, since they both represent
continuity rather than radical change.  Russian television is now
speculating that Chernomyrdin and Rybkin will be the main
contenders for the Russian presidency in 1995.  (OMRI, April 26,
1995)


21 April 1995:
-As of May 1, the minimum wage in Russia will increase from
20,500 rubles ($4) a month to 43,700 rubles ($8.60).  Yeltsin
vetoed an earlier draft that raised the minimum wage to 54,100
rubles ($10.70), saying the country could not afford it.
Parliament approved the new minimum wage, signed by Yeltsin, but
Labor Minister Valery Yanvarev was quoted as saying it could
produce a "tough monetary situation," requiring an estimated
extra 1 trillion rubles per month.  (OMRI, April 21, 1995)


21-27 April 1995:
-During the past week, the average cost of a basket of 19
essential goods was 162,000 rubles, representing an increase of
1.6 percent from the previous week.  The price of essential foods
rose by 1.8 percent.  The highest price hike was on bread and
bakery products, which increased by 3.8 percent.  Fruit prices
grew by 4.1 percent; canned fruits and berries prices grew by 2.8
percent, and vegetable prices grew by 2.3 percent.  The Far
Eastern District had the lowest increase in food prices, only 1.3
percent, while food prices rose by 2.6 percent in the North
Caucasian and Volga districts.  (Moscow News, No. 15, April 21-
27, 1995)


18 April 1995:
-An estimated 30% to 40% of Russians earn less than the 249,000
rubles a month, viewed as the average minimum subsistence level.
The number of Russians living below the poverty line increased
substantially in the first quarter of this year.  In response, on
April 12, the Duma approved a draft law on the subsistence
minimum that would entitle those on low incomes to receive state
benefits.  (OMRI, April 18, 1995)


14-21 April 1995:
-By April 15, Russian farmers had sown 2.138 million hectares of
spring crops, more than 1 million ha more than at the same time
last year.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food,
farmers had sown 1.7 million ha of grain or 170% more than last
year.  More and more farms in the Central Black Earth Region have
started sowing, as well as farmers in the war-torn Chechnya area.
Farmers are still finding it difficult, however, to repair
machinery and still face severe fuel shortages in many parts of
the country.  (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol. 4,
Issue 16, pp. 2-3, April 14-21, 1995)

-Miron Tatsyun, chairman of state timber at Roslesprom, reports
that the Russian timber industry is beginning to emerge from its
crisis.  Timber production was down just 8% during the first
quarter of 1995, compared to 32% in January-March 1994.  Pulp
production increased 29%, cardboard 19%, and paper and plywood
8%.  Tatsyun said first quarter exports for 1995 were up 21.9%.
(Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol. 4, Issue 16, p. 4,
April 14-21, 1995)

-Alexander Zaveryukha, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister of
Agriculture, told a meeting of the Russian government's food
commission that Russia has enough grain to last until the next
harvest.  Zaveryukha went on to say that Russia needed to
restrict cereal exports and redistribute stocks among regions.
Zaveryukha also proposed tariffs of 20% for food wheat and 25-35%
for oilseeds.  Private grain traders disagree that Russia will
survive until the next harvest without importing grain.  They
contend Russia needs to import between 2 million and 6 million
tons of wheat before harvest.  Figures released at the conference
did show that Russia had only 120,000 tons of free maize and that
it may have to import up to 1 million tons of the crop to make
formula feeds.  (Interfax Food and Agriculture Report, Vol. 4,
Issue 16, April 14-21, 1995)


AREA INTERESTS

28 April 1995:
-The Ukrainian government has adopted several measures to speed
up its demonopolization program.  Oleksander Zavada, head of
Ukraine's State Antimonopoly Committee, reported that some 250
associations, composed of nearly 5,000 enterprises, continue to
function as monopolies.  Many new joint-stock companies have
maintained the monopolies they enjoyed under communism and
continue to stifle competition, particularly in the agricultural
sector.  (OMRI, April 28, 1995)

-Bulgaria's president, Zhelyu Zhelev, continues to contest land
laws passed by the Socialist majority in Parliament.  Zhelev
issued a decree, returning the latest April 14 law on the
restitution of farm land, to the Parliament for further
discussion.  Zhelev opposes the new land law because he believes
it would effectively halt agrarian reform and because he contends
that it contradicts the constitution.  The law restricts the
right of land owners to sell their plots.  For the first time,
Zhelev will appeal to the Constitutional Court to overrule the
amendment.  (OMRI, April 28, 1995)


24 April 1995:
-According to the Moldovan Central Electoral Commission,
preliminary results of local elections on April 16 give the
ruling Agrarian-Democratic Party almost 50% of the mandates or
more than 640 out of 1290.  The opposition Democratic Forces
Alliance received 275 mandates or 21.5% and the Moldovan
Communist Party 205 or 16%.  In some cities, such as Chisinau,
the elections were declared invalid because of low voter turnout
and will be repeated April 30.  (OMRI, April 24, 1995)


14 April 1995:
-According to the Slovak Statistical Office, food prices fell by
0.3 percent in February.  In January and February, the income of
agricultural enterprises increased by 2.1 percent.  Despite the
passage of a restrictive state budget, Slovakia's budget deficit
reached 4.17 koruny by the end of February.  Slovakia also
registered a trade deficit during the same period.  (OMRI, April
14, 1995)