French cows to save Russian agriculture

The Agriculture Ministry, which hopes its new quotas on imported meat will give Russian producers some breathing room, said recently that it is turning to French cows to revive the domestic beef industry. Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev presented to reporters a model ranch with French cattle in the Tyumen region that is to be replicated throughout the country over the next few years. "We have lost our leading position in beef cattle-breeding on the world market," said Gordeyev, who is also a deputy prime minister. "If we let meat imports remain at current levels, we will have to forget about our own [production]." Under the pilot project, National Reserve Bank and the Tyumen regional administration have formed the $6-million National Meat Co. in the south of the Tyumen region, said National Reserve Bank chairperson Alexander Lebedev. The new company, whose ownership is split evenly between the region and the bank, is intended to serve as the model for vertically integrated beef production, from pasture to table. The Agriculture Ministry, which has thrown its weight behind the project, has promised that the enterprises will receive long-term subsidized loans through state-owned Rosselkhozbank. National Reserve Bank will invest $5 million in livestock from France in 2003, and a possible $20 million over the next two to three years, Lebedev said. By the end of 2003, National Meat plans to buy 2,000 more cows, said its president, Andrei Zhuravlyov, who also heads the Interregional Fund of Meat Stockbreeding. Last month, 500 head of cattle were delivered to the Tyumen region from France as part of an intergovernmental program approved in fall 2001. The program could send some 10,000 French cows per year to Russia until 2012. "This is only the start," Gordeyev said. Similar enterprises are to be set up in the Moscow, Krasnodar, Stavropol, Smolensk, Belgorod and Ryazan regions, the Saint Petersburg Times wrote.

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