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    RUSSIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER PROPOSES ELABORATING FOOD SECURITY PROGRAM

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    MOSCOW, April 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev deems it necessary to elaborate a national food security program, which would fix the amounts of staples that need to be produced to maintain food security while also laying down government agencies' responsibilities in keeping the production volumes up.

    Speaking Wednesday in the State Duma, or parliament's lower house, Gordeyev said Russia's agricultural market was 11 billion dollars' worth today and that more that a half of it-$6 billion-fell on imported foods' share.

    To be able to reverse the trend, the Russian government will have to work out a comprehensive program that would set priorities for the development of the agricultural sector. The government's main goal in developing such a program should be to protect the domestic producer with proper budget, pricing and customs policies, Gordeyev said.

    The minister pointed out that doubling the Gross Domestic Product-a task set by President Vladimir Putin-will be impossible to carry out without agricultural production growth. At this point, the sector can realistically grow at a rate of no more than 2.5-3 percent, he said.

    Effective agricultural development is also a prerequisite for diversifying the Russian economy and making it less dependent on exterior factors, such as crude oil prices, Gordeyev pointed out. Being a major consumer of material and technical resources, agriculture gives boost to other industries, the minister said. According to statistics he cited to corroborate his point, one rouble worth of agricultural output provides the national economy with an additional three roubles.

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