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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends,
I wish you all a warm welcome. You have come here from all around the country and represent the agriculture sector, and I hope we will see each other again today later at the [Agriculture Workers’ Day] gala concert.
But before we go to the concert and enjoy the celebrations, I propose that we first talk about how the sector is developing, the problems you face in the countryside – for the agriculture sector is never without problems – and also the sector’s outlook.
We cannot yet completely sum up the results of this year’s harvest, but can already give a fair assessment. Obviously, this year has brought people in the countryside and indeed all around the country in general far more positive emotions than last year. Last year was a particularly difficult year, of course. You have all worked very hard, and we too have had to act swiftly and keep apace of events in the measures we have been taking to support the sector.
I think that these support measures have helped in some ways, perhaps not in all situations, but there has been no dramatic worsening in the sector, in any case. I am satisfied with these results. After all, it has been six years now that I have been involved in the sector at the management level. It would have been a great pity if all of our efforts over these last years turned out to be in vain. We have avoided this fate. What’s more, even taking into account last year’s exceptional situation with the drought and wildfires and lower harvest that resulted, we nonetheless managed to cover and balance domestic demand. True, we had to take some restrictive measures and imposed an export embargo, which of course had an impact on some agriculture businesses, though the effect was felt more in other sectors.
This year, we allocated state funds for supporting the agriculture sector, and we also extended the discount prices for fuel and lubricants, as we did last year and the year before. We allocated funds for buying farm equipment too. Rosselkhozbank and Sberbank have budgeted and spent 150 billion rubles [around $5 billion] in loans for this.
This year’s harvest has been a lot better. I took part in a number of the events marking the harvest, some of which had more of a holiday feel. I won’t hide that it was an enjoyable experience. The grain harvest currently comes to around 90 million tons, and perhaps this figure will come to a final total of around 95 million tons, but let’s wait and see what the final tally will bring. In any event, we now have solid reserves for the winter, enough to cover our domestic demand and make reserves, including reserves that will go over into the next year. We can also resume grain exports, though this is an area in which we will have to tread carefully. As far as exports go, it is good that we have this possibility once more and that Russia will again be able to deliver grain to the world markets. At the same time, however, we must remember that our livestock industry needs grain too, and so we have to keep a balance, all the more so as the more our livestock industry develops, the more grain it will consume, and this is also something to keep in mind.
We have had good harvests of soya, rape, and sunflower this year, record harvests, you could say, with around 8 million tons, which is up a quarter on 2009. The sugar beet harvest is also expected to bring an excellent result. It would be good to have the chance to see the work underway before the harvest comes to a close. We are expecting a figure of around 40 million tons, which is double last year’s result and indeed is higher than at any time in this crop’s history in our country.
We have started exporting sugar for the first time, with around 50,000 tons already sent abroad. These are all very big achievements and make us very happy, but let’s not forget that they are the result of the hard work of those in the countryside, the grain growers, machine-operators, agronomists, and the business managers too. And the weather has been on their side too this year. Most important is that they succeeded in making the best of these opportunities, because we have had many occasions in the past when the weather was decent but the harvest not great. The harvest is not completely over yet though, there is also the work ahead to sow the winter crops, and we hope that everything will go as planned.
That is what I wanted to say by way of a few opening remarks. I invite you now to start the discussion, and once again, I congratulate you on the holiday.