Freezing food prices in Russia would be a mistake - Kudrin - 1

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The Russian government should stabilize food prices, not freeze them, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Wednesday.
(Recasts, adds additional information in paras 4-5)

WASHINGTON, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian government should stabilize food prices, not freeze them, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Wednesday.

"Freezing food prices is impossible. This is a market, and prices cannot be frozen in the market. It would be a mistake," the official said.

He added that price hikes in global food markets were a long-term phenomenon, opening up new opportunities to Russian agricultural producers.

Food price hikes have accelerated in Russia over the last few months, following trends on global food markets. According to Russia's State Statistics Service, the fastest growth in September was demonstrated by rapeseed and soybean oil prices (13.5%), pasteurized milk (9.4%), fermented milk products (7.9%) and curds (7.4% - 7.5%).

Taking into account food price growth, consumer prices in Russia grew 7.5% in the first nine months of 2007, or 0.3% more than in the same period of last year. In September alone they climbed 0.8%, making the government's 8% inflation target for 2007 unrealistic.

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