Russia needs larger harvest to avoid additional food aid

by Teresa Acklin
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   MOSCOW — Russia needs to harvest from 73 million to 75 million tonnes of grain this year in order to avoid buying it abroad or requesting food aid again, the country's agriculture and food minister said recently.

   The official, Viktor Semyonov, told senior ministry officials that Russia's annual carryover stock of grain — the grain stored in silos from year to year — was expected to be just one tonne by August, compared with 20 million to 25 million tonnes at the same time last year.

   He warned that the nation would be threatened by serious food shortages if this year's harvest is below last year's 47.8 million tonnes, the worst in 40 years. The Agriculture Ministry favors tighter control over the accounting for grain production, he said.

   The abysmal harvest in 1998 forced Russia to sign agreements for food aid worth more than U.S.$1 billion with the European Union and the United States.