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Russia Mulls US Food Aid, Imports

November 4, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia is negotiating for U.S. food aid but also wants to keep buying U.S. food imports and use some of the revenue to support domestic farmers.

A U.S. delegation is in Moscow this week to discuss possible aid, but no decision was expected for at least another day as the Americans asked for a ``timeout″ Tuesday to consider the situation, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael Hurley said no information was available yet on the type or size of the possible aid package.

Meanwhile, Russia also wants to keep food imports at the level of the past two years _ when imports made up about half of food in Russia’s stores _ and use some of the revenues to ``help stabilize the Russian agrarian sector,″ Kulik was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Russia charges high tariffs on imported food, which produces revenue the government can use to assist farmers. Some imported food is sold at state-run shops, which also produces money for the government.

Russia’s economic crisis and an ensuing drop in imports, which came on top of the worst grain harvest in 40 years, have led to serious concerns about possible winter food shortages.

Russian Agriculture and Food Minister Viktor Semyonov said last week that 22 of Russia’s 89 regions suffer ``acute shortages of grain.″

Plenty of food has remained in most stores so far.

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