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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Help for Russia's New Agribusiness

Editor


I appreciated the front-page story, "West Finds Small-Scale Aid Hard to Disburse" (Aug. 3). In spite of the importance of supporting Russian entrepreneurs, assisting this sector of the economy is proving difficult.


VOCA is one of several private American companies providing technical assistance to the emerging private farmer and agribusiness sector in Russia through the AID-funded "Farmer-to-Farmer" program.


The greatest constraint new rural entrepreneurs face is a crippling shortage of capital. We are proposing the creation in Russia of a funding mechanism similar to one established in Poland in 1989. The U. S. -Polish Joint Commission on Humanitarian Assistance funds small- and medium-scale agribusiness development projects through low-interest loans. The source of funding is the sale of donated U. S. commodities in Poland.


What makes the lending program unique is that repayment is not to a revolving loan fund where local currencies quickly lose their value due to inflation; instead, the loans are repaid for secondary projects supporting infrastructure development and/or local humanitarian causes.


Our proposed U. S. -Russian Joint Commission for Agribusiness and Rural Development would be established on a regional basis. It would be independent of government and thus more objective in its ability to loan money to the most deserving, that is viable, businesses.


Such a program would go a long way to solving the immediate capital needs of small-scale agribusinesses emerging in Russia as well as the enormous problem of financing infrastructure improvement. In the near future a small outlay could help to create thousands of needed agricultural cooperatives and other rural businesses in Russia.


Brian Foster


Country Representative


Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance