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    RUSSIA SEEKS TO JOIN THREE LARGEST WORLD GRAIN EXPORTERS

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    MOSCOW, February 12th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Russia can increase grain output up to 100-110 million tons a year, and thereby not only meet its domestic demand but also join three major grain exporters of the world, Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said on Thursday.

    In his words, Russia will achieve this, given agricultural land that was put out of circulation after the market reform was launched in the country is involved in the process. These areas amount to about 30 million hectares, including 18-20 million hectares of plough land, the minister said.

    Last year, gross grain output in Russia amounted to 73.5 million tons.

    Gordeyev refused to make any forecasts for next year. In his words, substantiated assessment can only be expected in April when the winter crops come up.

    The Russian minister cited 75-80 million tons as the least optimal harvest, which will make it possible to meet domestic demand and provide for some export. According to Gordeyev, if harvest in Russia remains within these figures, Russia will be able to export 5 million tons at the very least.

    The minister described 90 million tons as the medium acceptable figure. This will not only make it possible to preserve the balance between the bread grain and forage, but also to increase exports, said the Russian agriculture minister.

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