Investment Needed for Agriculture

Russia and neighboring countries would be able to increase their agriculture production with more private investment, the Food and Agriculture Organization and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said Monday.

At least 13 million hectares in countries including Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine is suitable for agriculture, out of 23 million hectares withdrawn since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two organizations said in a news release after a meeting with government officials and company executives in London. Food inflation more than doubled to about 40 percent last year, spurring some governments to control prices and limit exports, the statement said.

"This bank would like market-driven solutions," EBRD president Jean Lemierre said at a news conference Monday. "In the region, there is massive potential to supply more -- not only to the countries of the region but the world."

Wheat, soybean and corn prices have soared to record prices this year. By 2050, the global demand for food is expected to double, according to a December report by the Rotterdam-based Institute for Research and Investment Services.

Ukraine would need 80 billion euros ($123 billion) to triple its agriculture production, said Leonid Kozachenko, president of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, without specifying a time frame for the spending. An "improper environment" including export bans and inflation controls has discouraged investors, he said. "We need to change this environment."