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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Petersburg Faces Food Blockade

ST. PETERSBURG - Local food producers are considering the imposition of a "food blockade" on St. Petersburg if stores do not pay debts totaling 10 billion rubles (about $9 million).

"We have told producers to consider stopping deliveries until the stores that owe them pay up", Nikolai Shirokov said Wednesday. He is the strike committee chairman at the Agro-Industrial Complex, an organization uniting 200 local factories and farms producing 65 percent of the city's food.

City officials said they would grant milk factories and other factories producing critical products an emergency low-interest 3. 1 billion ruble credit, but that privatized stores would have to stand on their own.

"We will not permit a strike, but we cannot bail everyone out", said Anatoly Babayev of the Mayoral Trade Committee. "Privatized stores will have to learn bookkeeping" and pay their debts, he added.

An economist at Detskoye Selo, St. Petersburg's largest vegetable farm, said nonpayment by buyers had made paying September wages "impossible".

Privatization transferred nearly 90 percent of the city's food-producing and selling enterprises to private hands in 1992, but inflation and high-interest loan rates have crippled the fledgling small-business sector.

Food crises historically evoke fear in Russia's second city, where nearly 1 million died during a grueling German blockade from 1941 to 1943.