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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kulik: State Seeks U.S. Food Aid

A former top agricultural official warned Monday that this year's grain harvest may fall far short of government estimates, and said the federal government is seeking food aid from the United States to fill the gap.

Gennady Kulik, former deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture and now a member of parliament, said the nation's farmers will harvest about 52 million tons of grain, and may require 10 million tons of food aid, the Interfax news agency reported.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates farmers will harvest 65 million tons, Yevgeny Sosnin, a ministry spokesman said Monday. He declined to comment on Kulik's figures or why they differed from official estimates.

Kulik said federal officials were already discussing a new food aid package with U.S. officials. The deal under discussion would be similar to one offered in 1998, after a financial crisis and disastrous harvest of only 47.8 million tons of grain. That aid deal is still being implemented.

"I think they are talking about 5 million, 6 million tons,'' Interfax quoted Kulik as saying.

A cold spell in May that hit the fertile "Black Earth" regions of central and southern Russia hurt many crops and forced revised harvest estimates.

The Agriculture Ministry said Monday it has revised upwards the figures for grain killed by winter and early spring frosts. A ministry statement said winter grains had been lost on 1.8 million hectares by June 1, or 13.6 percent of the whole area sown to winter grains in autumn 1999, of which 737,100 hectares had been resown. In earlier statements the ministry said winter grains had been lost on 1.4 million hectares, or 900,000 less than last year.

Last year's food aid package followed two bad harvests in a row of 47.9 million metric tons in 1998 and 54.7 million metric tons in 1999.

Official estimates place annual demand at around 75 million tons.