Farmers hang on to their grain

  • 1998-09-10
  • By Anastasia Styopina
RIGA - The state started buying grain from local producers Sept. 1, but farmers are not rushing to sell their harvests to pad the state reserve.

According to the amendments to the regulations on grain market intervention, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers Aug. 25, the state Grain Trade Agency will acquire all the grain from farmers that was not bought by grain processing companies at the price of 68 lats ($113.30) per ton of wheat and 63 lats per ton of rye. The minimum purchase volume is 30 tons of grain.

But Grain Trade Agency Director General Juris Sprucs said farmers are not lining up to sell their grain, opting instead to wait for higher October prices.

According to the regulations on grain market intervention, the agency will pay 72 lats per ton of wheat and 67 lats per ton of rye beginning Oct. 1.

Sprucs could not estimate how much grain was purchased in the first couple of days nor how much the agency will acquire in total by April 30, 1999, when the state stops buying grain.

"We'll buy all the grain farmers will offer," Sprucs said.

In July, farmers offered to sell 100,000 tons of wheat and 20,000 tons of rye, but Sprucs said he could not predict whether this offer would still be on the table.

According to Sprucs, the agency can buy up to 50,000 tons of grain with its means but would have to get credit to buy all the extra grain.

Iveta Bojare, adviser to the finance minister, said the agency has more than 4.1 million lats and could borrow up to 10 million lats from the state treasury for buying grain.

According to Grain Trade Agency's figures, grain processing companies have bought and accepted for storage 91,295 tons of grain as of Aug. 31. That is only half of what was accepted last year, Sprucs said.

Sprucs said it's too early to talk about importing grain for the state reserve.

"We'll know whether we would need to import after the agency prepares a balance in October," Sprucs said. "If there isn't enough grain, we'll import it, but if it is more profitable to import flour, we'll import flour."