Agriculture Minister predicts difficulties in sector

The beginning of the agricultural year, which starts with a sowing campaign, will be "much more difficult" than the previous one, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexey Gordeyev announced at a briefing in the House of Government today. He noted it was due to unexpected natural calamities in 2002 and damage inflicted to the agricultural sector. Gordeyev estimated damage caused by natural calamities at 3.8bn rubles (about $120m at the current exchange rate) and noted that agricultural producers had not been compensated for these losses as yet.

The Minister reported that revenues and profits of agricultural producers dropped despite improved working efficiency. Another problem in the sector was an uncontrolled rise in prices for fuel and lubricants, Gordeyev was quoted as saying.