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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agriculture Industry Sees Production, Profits Rise

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Friday that Russia has produced nearly enough food to feed itself this year, and that the agriculture industry as a whole will realize profits of up to 15 billion rubles ($535 million) — up about 8 percent from 1999.

"Talking about when Russia will be able to feed itself, I should say that it can already do it, though … not yet with meat and milk," he told a news briefing.

Gordeyev said that this year’s grain production — 65 million tons, up 19 percent year-on-year — was "more than enough [to meet domestic demand]," adding that the potato crop was up 4 percent to 32.5 million tons, and vegetables were up 17 percent to 14.4 million tons.

However, Gordeyev said, the number of livestock has been reduced. He wouldn’t elaborate.

Gordeyev said the industry had climbed out of the black hole it fell into during the crisis year of 1998, when losses totaled 37 billion rubles ($1.3 billion). Last year the sector made 13 billion rubles ($467 million), and in 2000 profits "between 14 billion rubles and 15 billion rubles" are expected, he said.

Total food imports are on pace to hit a three-year low of $6 billion, down from $7.5 billion in 1999 and $12 billion in 1998, he said.

The Agriculture Ministry is also introducing measures to further improve the industry, including creating a fund to help enterprises pay interest on commercial loans, providing 3 billion rubles ($107 million) in credits to agricultural machine makers, and helping to restructure debts, he said.

"All those measures are good and should have been implemented long ago," Vasily Uzun, a professor at the All-Russia Agrarian Institute, said in a telephone interview. "The restructuring of agriculture debts should have been done in 1994, when more than half of the country’s [27,300] large and middle-sized privatized agricultural companies went bankrupt," he said.

"Now about 60 percent are so broken that they can’t be helped this way."