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    MOSCOW, February 12, 2004. (RIA Novosti ) -- Prime-Minister of Russia Mikhail Kasyanov calls to increase production of grain in the country. "The historic experience proves that grain production has always been a traditional Russian specialization, Mikhail Kasyanov said on Thursday at the Cabinet's meeting devoted to agricultural issues.

    According to the Premier the experience of the past years, when Russia has turned from grain's importer to its exporter, testifies to the fact that the grain production can become an essential part of the economy like the production of other major commodities.

    "We should think how to stimulate the expansion of areas sown to grain for Russia to become associated not only with the production of oil and gas but also the production of grain, Kasyanov said.

    According to his assessment, the general situation in the Russian agricultural sector has stabilized and there are all prerequisites for increasing the rates of development of this sector. Last year the agricultural sector's output increased by 1.5 percent.

    Among the measures taken in the country in support of market processes in the agricultural sector Mikhail Kasyanov mentioned the grown volumes of credits disbursed by commercial banks to agricultural producers. In 2002 these credits totaled 25 billion roubles, in 2003 - by 38 billion roubles and this year such credits are expected to exceed 50 billion roubles ($1 equals 28.5 roubles). It should be noted that the repayment of these credits is very high - 98-99 percent, Kasyanov stressed.

    Apart from that, the scope of machinery leasing to agricultural producers has increased. Plans are in place this year to increase the scope of harvest insurance, the Russian Prime-Minister said.

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