19 Jul 2010 15:10

Russia may have record rice harvest in 2010

MOSCOW. July 19 (Interfax) - Russia may harvest a record 1 million tonnes of rice this year, the president of the Russian Grain Union, Arkady Zlochevsky, said at a press conference in Moscow on Monday.

Russia harvested 908,000 tonnes of rice in 2009, 23% more than in 2008.

The record harvest would result from the greater area sown and higher yields, he said. "Fields in the Kuban are yielding 60 centners per hectare," he said.

Other crops that could see record harvests include "corn, soy and sunflower, whose sowing area has increased substantially."

The Agriculture Ministry shifted the crop mix this year toward high-protein legumes and sugar beets, Zlochevsky said. The sowing area for those crops increased 20%, mainly by cutting back barley sowing. "Although it might cause supplies of barley to be tight, any shortfall can be made up with wheat for feed," he said, noting the prices for barley might rise to the level of wheat for feed.

Meanwhile, a draft bill on crop insurance is currently undergoing expert review, Zlochevsky said. "I hope it will be submitted to the State Duma in the near future," he said. The government will discuss the crop insurance issue this week, he added.

The bill, if passed into law, would take effect on July 1, 2011. The bill makes a clear distinction between damaged and destroyed crop. Ambiguity in current law creates a loophole for insurance companies, he said.

"The main thing is that the bill gives hope that damages will be compensated. It gives an agricultural producer a reason to buy insurance," he said, adding that the bill "would make a lot of changes for the better."