Visits within Russia

28 march, 2012 18:54

Vladimir Putin meets with agricultural producers from the Voronezh Region

The Government of the Russian Federation will continue its agriculture support programme, the prime minister said at a meeting with representatives of Voronezh Region agricultural enterprises.

Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:

Friends, good afternoon! Here today, in Voronezh, we are holding a meeting devoted to the spring sowing campaign, to the spring field work. But in advance of the meeting, I'd like to talk to you. I'll make a few introductory remarks, and then we will ask our friends from the media outlets to migrate to other premises, and we will speak freely, even sincerely, about what is happening in agriculture, how you assess the situation here in general, in this region in particular, what problems you are facing, how you think they should be solved, and what questions you want to ask. We will simply talk about the situation in general, in a completely open and free manner.

You are aware that in recent years the situation in agriculture has radically changed. I want to stress, without any exaggeration and very gladly, that the situation has changed dramatically! It's worth keeping in mind that this country (I mean the Soviet Union) had always been a net importer of wheat and cereals, and now we have become the world's third largest exporter following the United States and Canada; our country has definitively gained the third position in the world. Last year we harvested over 94 million tonnes – a record amount! And this is primarily due to the labour, the talent of the people who work in rural areas, but with state support, not least of all.

This year, we will allocate 170 billion roubles to the agricultural sector from the federal budget. An additional loan of 150 billion roubles is planned. I have just looked into it: a Rosselkhozbank representative proudly told me that the bank extends loans at an interest rate of 9.9 percent. In principle, this is a much lower interest rate than that offered by other financial institutions. We will develop Rosagroleasing further. You know that last year Rosagroleasing supplied 5,000 units at a 50 percent discount to agricultural producers, and this year Rosagroleasing will have about 9 billion roubles for the further supply of agricultural equipment to agricultural enterprises. This equally concerns mineral fertilisers: there is a programme for the supply of a discount mineral fertiliser operating in this region. And in general, across the country, we have agreements with mineral fertiliser producers for a significant discount on their supplies. And I will certainly keep this under control at all times and explain to our relevant departments that these agreements should be implemented.

And one of the most sensitive issues, a simple issue but very sensitive, has to do with fuel and lubricants. I want to remind you and underscore the following: we agreed with fuel and lubricant producers, with our major companies, to fix the prices existing on November 31, in late November of last year, as far as I remember, and to offer a 30% discount on this wholesale price (I want to underscore that this price is much lower than the retail price). This will make it possible for the sector to save some 11 billion roubles in the first six months of this year, and last year the sector saved 18 billion roubles due to fuel and lubricant discounts. And now, we will save 11 billion in the first six months of the year alone.

On the whole, the agriculture support programme will continue. Now, as you know, we are developing a state programme of agricultural development, and it will provide for financial issues, agricultural equipment development issues, agricultural equipment leasing issues and issues of social development of rural areas. I do not want to make a mistake by citing imprecise figures; however the housing being built in rural areas has increased significantly. A priority, in my view, is infrastructure, and primarily, road infrastructure. In this respect I hope very much that the decision that has been made recently to permit the use of the regional road fund to develop rural road network, will play a very positive role. I'm very much counting on this, and we will monitor the situation closely.

And, of course, one of the most sensitive issues, a recent concern in the past years, is over the negotiating process on Russia's accession to the WTO. This has always been a concern, and now the agricultural producers, let me be frank, are alarmed at this process. Let's talk about this. I want to remind you that Russia, in the course of the negotiating process, secured its right to extend direct subsidies up to $9 billion to agriculture until the year 2013. Let me reiterate, that is direct subsidies of $9 billion. Regrettably, this is more than we actually allocate to agriculture where we have no limitations. And then, we will gradually have to reduce these direct subsidies until 2018. But this includes only direct subsidies; this does not include anything concerned with agricultural production, nor anything indirectly related to it: that is infrastructure, social development of rural areas, and so on, in other words, the agents significantly influencing agricultural production – subsidies to these areas are not restricted at all. Therefore we can redistribute direct subsidies to such areas that are not restricted by WTO, but I repeat, and you understand, that these areas significantly influence agricultural production itself.

And a separate conversation, certainly, has to do with support for pig farming. Because there are some tensions with everything concerning red meat, I am aware of that. But we maintain some options on quotas, and moreover the domestic production is growing, thank God, and hopefully it will continue. This concerns not just poultry, the production of which has doubled recently. The growth of poultry meat is booming in Russia. Honestly, I don't even know whether any other country on the globe can boast the same growth. I think probably not. In this respect, Russia has record indicators. Pig farming is developing quite efficiently and rapidly. With Russia's accession to the WTO these branches will need special attention, and especially sophisticated forms of protection. We will have a chance to discuss this today, too.

This is what I wanted to say to start off. I would like to greet you once again; I look forward to an honest and open discussion. Thank you for your attention, let us begin.

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Before meeting with representatives of agricultural enterprises Vladimir Putin saw an improvised agricultural exposition that the organisers had set up in the administration building. The prime minister showed some interest in the production of the Central Black Earth Fruit and Berry Company, a juice producer. Noting Vladimir Putin's interest, Voronezh Region Governor Alexei Gordeyev praised the company's products: "These are natural juices made of fresh apples." Vladimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov tasted the company's products. "Everything is tasty," Putin said.