OT? - Russia asks U.S. for 5 mln tonnes food aid

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MOSCOW, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Russia is back in the market for food aid with a request for an extra five million tonnes from the United States.

The economically stricken giant is experiencing another poor grain harvest, but it is making no contact with the European Union and refusing all comment.

Although Russia forecasts this year's crop at 60 million tonnes, well above last year's disastrous 47.8 million, a 40-year low, the lack of carry-over stocks means it will not be able to feed itself next year.

Add to that Russia's parlous finances following currency devaluation last year, which meant the rouble is now worth a quarter of what it was last August, and the country cannot afford imports. A request for more aid was seen as inevitable.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said in Washington on Tuesday that a request had been made, and a U.S. government source in Moscow provided full details of what was requested, but Russian sources in Moscow would say nothing on Wednesday.

The spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak, responsible for agriculture, would not comment to Reuters. Some Russian news agencies, quoting informed government sources, even denied that a request had been made at all.

The European Commission's Moscow delegation was surprised to learn of the request from the United States.

Gilbert Dubois, EU charge d'affaires in Moscow, said that then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin had asked the EU for aid informally in July.

But as recently as Monday Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said he saw no need for further aid to Russia.

No new Russian request to the EU has been made since then, Dubois said, although he pointed out that a regular meeting of EU and Russian food officials was sheduled for Thursday.

``Maybe they'll put something on the table then, but I have absolutely no early warning about anything of that kind.''

Russia is currently receiving 3.1 million tonnes of commodities worth $1 billion from the United States and a further $500 million aid package from the European Union.


A U.S. government source in Moscow told Reuters on Wednesday that the request for next year was even larger, with a request for million tonnes of food wheat, 1.5 million of feed wheat, 1.5 million of corn and a million tonnes of soybeans and soymeal.

There was also a request for 15,000 tonnes of corn and vegetable seeds.

Andrei Sizov, an independent agricultural consultant in Moscow, said five million tonnes would not be enough to cover Russia's anticipated deficit next year, adding that he believed eight to 10 million tonnes of imports would be needed.

He was revising down his own forecast for this year's harvest to 55 million tonnes, some eight percent below the official estimate.

But he said it was not certain Russia would turn to the EU for help. That would depend on what kind of request had been made to the United States.

``From what I understand, with the United States there is talk of both commercial imports, by credits, and of a gift. So there could be two aid packages,'' he said. ``So it's early yet to talk about the Europeans.''

Russia's second consecutive request for food aid is a blow to a country which harvested up to 120 million tonnes a year as recently as the 1980s.

While the recent poor harvests can be explained partly by weather -- both 1998 and 1999 saw unusual cold snaps in May, followed by searing heat in June and July -- human failings and financial problems have also been blamed.

Lack of funds has meant shortages of fertiliser, equipment, pesticides and fuel. Human failings have meant that what has been available has not always been in the right place when needed.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 29, 1999


Take our food and then spit in our faces........why should Russia be any different than the rest of the world?

Or should that read spit in our faces and then take our food?

-- Tuan Cu Mhara (strider X6@aol.com), September 29, 1999.

Of course I can't know, but its easy to believe they're playing us for saps ---- as the Clinton Administration (and others) have been.

What a joke (in their view) to take our free food and then nuke us.

Not saying it'll happen, but the possibility exists.

-- Jon Johnson (narnia4@usa.net), September 29, 1999.

i have no problem with the idea of SELLING them food. but giving? no way. they have plenty of money, the billions upon billions that they stole from the IMF and squirreled away. not to mention the mountains of gold and jewels that they have. plus oil and gas underground, enough to float the world on oil.

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), September 29, 1999.

not that i don't have sympathy for the poor russian citizens but what a stinking joke. here we have watched the imf dole out billions to them when they knew it was being sucked up by the russian mafia and russia's leaders. now their government is actively persecuting christians and jews again. they are in bed with the chinese probably still plotting to destroy us. and they WANT FOOD. so who will take it? the mafia again? just watch--we will give it to them!!! we are the tax base for everyone in the world. slaves.

-- tt (cuddluppy@yahoo.com), September 29, 1999.

Honestly and objectively, I wonder what portion of this food aid will find its way into the Russian Civil Defense Program, if any.

I don't recall where I read it, but they already have huge sums of foodstuffs stored underground in Civil Defense facilities.

Is this request for aid intended in any way to add to the existing Civil Defense stockpile? Or is it strictly earmarked for current consumption?

Just wondering.

-- no talking please (breadlines@soupkitchen.gov), September 29, 1999.

Looks like we have an update <:)=

Russia scandal casts shadow over food request -US

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Allegations that Russian officials were involved in massive money-laundering may play a part when the United States considers a request from Russia for additional food aid, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said on Wednesday.

Moscow has asked for another package of U.S. grains and meats to supplement the $1 billion in aid currently being shipped. The European Union, meanwhile, has said it sees no need for more food assistance to Russia because it is on track for a somewhat better harvest this year.

Glickman acknowledged that any further food aid could face opposition in light of the money laundering allegations.

``This is a request that is going to have to be deliberated with a lot of consequences involved with it,'' he told reporters after testifying at a Senate Finance committee hearing.

``But we are going to analyze it thoroughly,'' he said. ``It is a bona fide request.''

A U.S. government source in Moscow told Reuters that Russia was seeking nearly double the 3.1 million tonnes of meat, grains and seeds it is receiving under the package agreed to in December. The package includes direct donations as well as low-interest, long-term loans to buy U.S. food.

Glickman declined to discuss the specifics of Russia's request, but referred to it as ``significant.'' He said the administration had not set a timetable for reaching a decision on Moscow's request.

But Russia's plea for more aid is likely to face heavy scrutiny from Congress and others because of nagging charges that Russian officials were linked to an intricate money- laundering scheme with U.S. banks.

An investigation by federal and international authorities is looking into allegations that about $10 billion in Russian funds have been laundered through accounts at the Bank of New York Co. Inc. (NYSE:BK - news).

The charges have raised concerns about mismanagement in Russia, causing many to question if the U.S. food package to Russia has in fact escaped corruption.

But Glickman said U.S. officials were satisfied that the food aid was reaching the needy and that proceeds from the package were being deposited into the depleted Russian pension fund as planned.

``The first tranche of Russian food assistance has gone reasonably well,'' Glickman said, noting that he was waiting for a report from an interagency team that returned from a two-week trip to Russia late last week before making any decisions.

U.S. farmers are lobbying for additional food sales to Russia as a way to deplete overflowing grain bins and refrigerators in an effort to prop up sagging grain and meat prices that threaten to force many producers into bankruptcy.

Russian officials expect the country to harvest just 60 million tonnes of grain this year, far below peak production of about 120 million tonnes annually in the 1980s. Other sources expect the harvest will be more like 55 million tonnes.

The United States negotiated a food aid package to Russia late last year after Russia harvested only 47.8 million tonnes of grain because of severe weather. The country's food needs were intensified after Russia devalued in August, making food imports, a key part of the Russian supply, extremely expensive.

But some question if Russia actually needs food. The European Union negotiated a food aid package for Moscow last year but EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler on Monday ruled out any new EU food aid, saying Moscow did not face a serious grain shortage in the near future.

The source in Moscow said Russia asked the United States for an additional one million tonnes of wheat for food, 1.5 million tonnes of wheat for animal feed, 1.5 million tonnes of corn, one million tonnes of soybeans and meal, and 15,000 tonnes of corn and vegetable seeds.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 29, 1999.

I agree with Jon Johnson - we are likely being played for fools.

Why not give them food in exchange for their nukes? Then, if they want their nukes back they can pay for the food they received.

It is absolutley unavaoidable that somewhere, sometime, there will be a nuke detonated in anger, whether it is an act of war or terrorism. It might be within the next 12 months or it might be in 20 years but understand that it is only a matter if time.

-- tangbang (get@yours.now), October 01, 1999.

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