Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of the Agrarian Deputy Group of the State Duma answers speaks to PRAVDA.Ru
Q. Nikolai, in your view, why did we turn into a country filled up by so-called exporters with needless goods?
A. I have repeated this many times: all of our “friends” dream only about turning Russia into a supplier of raw materials; i.e., they want to buy from us cheap gas, oil, coal, and electricity, but they don't want our products: furniture, tractors, etc. To be honest, we are not competitive in some spheres; however, in others, we are still ahead of the whole planet.
During Soviet times, we belonged to the first ten nations consuming food. Today, Russia is in 63rd place. The 2,200 calories consumed now by an average Russian is as the food allowance of a poor Vietnamese soldier. However, they have a different climate in Vietnam. As a matter of fact, in the USSR, more than enough food was produced per head. We had another problem: there were troubles with marketing out products, with packaging and the so-called “marketable view” of the product. Therefore, in this situation, we met the early 1990s, when in Russia, events took place that the Fuehrer dreamed of in 1941 while attacking the USSR. We lost our military and economical potential. The country fell to several independent states, and, of course, it is really difficult to rebuild now in an absolutely autonomous Russia the same powerful potential that the USSR possessed.
Too many troubles struck Russia. However, the worst thing is that, during these years, conditions were created for the almost uncontrolled robbing of the state. Today, even politicians and analysts do not keep secret that 500 to 700 billion dollars were removed from the country within these 8-10 years. President Putin does not deny that each month 1.5 million dollars are being removed from the country, and each year, 18 billion dollars are removed. Unfortunately, for the time being, no serious measures are being taken to stop this flow, and, all the more, to make this money work inside the country.
Today, while selling raw materials, we import absolutely everything: from consumer goods to food, imporst make up already 40 percent. Now, we even depend on food imports.
Q. Does this mean that an economical blockade should be declared to us? A. In general, yes. Let us take, for example, the notorious “Bush’s legs” (poultry imported from US). We have a unique situation here. In 2001, our food production increased by 6.5 percent in comparison with 2000, while, within the same period oftime, imports increased by 19 percent. If the situation develops in the same way, within five years, Russian food will be simply forced out of the Russian market. If we join WTO, about 10 million people, first of all people who live in the country, will become jobless.
Q. What potential do Russian countrymen possess?
A. Today, the Russian agriculture industry numbers about 25-thousand collective farms and 287 individual farms. This army of countrymen should be properly armed. For example, in the press, information appears that one US farmer feeds 100-120 citizens of his fellow citizens. While our farmer feeds 1 to 12 Russian citizens. If our farmer possesses up-to-date equipment, he can not only feed his own country, but supply food abroad.
Two-million tons of poultry are necessary. During Soviet times, we produced 1.3 million tons. Today, this figure is 700 tons. Therefore, production capacities are not used in full.
Q. In your view, why are all grocery stores filled up with “ Bush’s legs,” and we don't see our domestically produced food? Why do our products not reach the consumer?
A. There are too powerful lobbyists on the federal level: in the government and in the Duma. There are people who represent structures interested in food imports. You can see who today influences custom duties and quotas and who are the mediators interested in importing poisoned poultry from the US and China. This happens on the level of ministers and the government.
They are very successful, which is why it turns out that, in the year 2000, we imported 700,000 tons of “Bush’s legs,” while, in 2001, we imported 1.3 million tons. This is very frightening. This is an exclusive circle: we import poisoned food, build drug stores, sell the poisoned food to our people, while, in the drug stores, we sell imported medicine.
Take any region of Russia. Within the last 8-10 years, the average life-span was shortened both in women and men. All of this is interrelated.
Q. When the ban on US poultry imports was voted for in the Duma, which factions voted against this ban?
A. Already in 1996, we raised this question on the state level. In the 1996 Duma, we tried to introduce restrictions on imports through quotas, increasing of entrance duties. The then Vice President Albert Gore called up premier Viktor Chernomyrdin and openly said (we had a shorthand report of this telephone conversation): “If you hinder the importation of our poultry, you will have troubles, including the International Monetary Fund.” We, at that time, were begging for money, while large amounts of money were being removed from Russia. Afterwards, the default took place. It is high time to count only on ourselves. Nobody but we ourselves will feed us or give us drink.
Nikolai Kharitonov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/02/39144.html