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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Farmers May Be Forced to Stop Harvest

The harvest, in full swing in the central grain belt, faces a potential crisis because of fuel shortages, but Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin on Thursday ruled out raising crude oil export tariffs.

Russian television showed farmers in the Samara region on the Volga in southern Russia saying they had enough fuel to carry on harvesting for three days, after which they would be forced to stop work.

They said they were in the middle of their best harvest in years, with yields of 4 metric tons per hectare.

Stepashin met President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday, and Interfax reported that they discussed the situation of the fuel market, especially gasoline, as well as the progress of the harvest.

"I, as prime minister, do not intend to raise export tariffs," he was quoted as saying after a subsequent meeting with the heads of some of Russia's largest oil companies.

A government resolution signed by Stepashin, leaving export tariffs unchanged at a base rate of 5 euros ($5.03) per ton, was published in Russia's official gazette earlier this week.

On Thursday morning, the Agriculture Ministry abruptly called off a scheduled news briefing that Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shcherbak was due to attend, without explanation.

After meeting Yeltsin, Stepashin repeated his assurances Russia would harvest 60 million tons of grain this year, the same total that the Agriculture Ministry has been giving for about a month.