Vladimir Putin: Mr Bocharov, how are things going? August is coming to a close and you probably have some preliminary results by now on the harvest, not the whole picture, but an idea of where we stand at least. What is the situation like in the agriculture sector today?
Andrei Bocharov: Mr President, I can inform you that Volgograd Region has already harvested 3.5 million tonnes of cereals. The harvest is complete now in around 80 percent of areas. The full harvest for this year should give us around 4 million tonnes.
Vladimir Putin: How does this compare to last year?
Andrei Bocharov: Last year we had 3.3 million tonnes, and that was our target – 3.3 million. This year, we are looking at 4 million. Volgograd Region needs 1.5 million tonnes to satisfy its own demand, and this gives us 2.5 million tonnes that we can easily sell outside the region or supply to the export market.
We are working with our partner countries too. They are quite actively involved in work in Volgograd Region today. We are carrying out around 70 projects in the agribusiness sector, worth a total of around 100 billion rubles.
The situation is looking quite good in vegetable growing and we hope to come close to 1 million tonnes this year. This is double what we need for our own consumption. We expect an increase of around 15 percent in melon production, which would bring the total in this sector to 250,000 tonnes.
In 2015, we plan substantial increases in support for our farmers and agribusiness. The money will be used to buy new equipment that will help to modernise production. We want to put the emphasis on building new warehouse space and processing facilities.
Irrigation systems and water management are also particularly important issues for Volgograd Region. We know that improvements in this area will not only help us to boost production, but will also improve the quality of life for people in rural areas. This is why we have put this issue at the top of our agenda. In this area we have a whole programme to develop irrigation in the region. Acting in accordance with your instruction, we will continue this work.
Vladimir Putin: What about processing?
Andrei Bocharov: The processing sector is looking quite good. Russian and foreign investment companies have started investing in processing in tandem with building warehouse space, since there is no sense in developing one unless you develop the other too. Some foreign companies have invested substantial amounts in this sector, including in sunflower seed processing and deep processing of wheat.
Vladimir Putin: Good.