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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Harvest Under Way Amid Fears of Disruption

Tractors began rolling across Russian fields Monday, starting a harvest campaign which may barely improve on last year's mediocre record and could see farmers protesting against the sector's collapse.


Russia is facing its third poor grain harvest in a row, forecasting net output of around 70 million metric tons -- which would number among the worst results in three decades.


The collapse of the farm sector, once heavily subsidized by the government but now struggling to scrape by on minimal handouts, has outraged farmers, and Interfax said labor disruptions were possible.


Alexander Davydov, chairman of the farm lobby's main trade union, was quoted as saying he could not rule out a wave of peasant reaction if there is not more evidence of government support.


He criticized the head of the government, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, for releasing only half of the 12 trillion rubles ($2 billion) budgeted for the sector for the first half of this year.


Farmers, hoping to improve on last year's drought-hit total harvest of 69.3 million tons, had started gathering winter grains in the fertile Krasnodar region in the south, Interfax said, quoting the Agriculture Ministry's Ivan Gridasov.


The State Statistics Committee put total grain sowings at 53.45 million hectares, down 1 percent on last year's levels.


Total wheat plantings were flat at 25.7 million hectares. But the feed grain sowings total slipped 9 percent on last year to 32 million hectares, with corn plantings down by 1 million hectares.


Interfax said sugar beet sowings fell 12 percent to 944,000 hectares from 1996's 1.07 million hectares. Plantings of sunflower seeds, a crop Russian farmers find attractive, fell 10 percent to 3.55 million hectares.


SovEcon, an independent agricultural consultant, estimated Russia's wheat imports -- not including wheat flour -- from July 1996 to June 1997 at just 1.55 million tons, 50 percent down on the previous season.