Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Poor Prospects for Soviet Harvest Political Confusion, Drought, Flooding, and Severe Shortages May Leave Crops to Rot

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Poor Prospects for Soviet Harvest Political Confusion, Drought, Flooding, and Severe Shortages May Leave Crops to Rot

Article excerpt

ABOUT 15 miles from the Kremlin, on the outskirts of the capital, rows of glistening greenhouses at the Moskovsky state farm produce everything from plump peppers to monstrous mushrooms.

Vladimir Taranov, the farm's assistant director, says this year's vegetable crop of 29,000 tons is projected to be 4.6 percent higher than last year. Given the crisis currently gripping Soviet agriculture, the success of the Moskovsky farm, which covers 375 acres and employs 3,500 workers, seems astounding. But in reality Moskovsky is a model farm set up to serve the Soviet elite.

The government invested 200 million rubles (about $111 million at the official exchange rate) to import Dutch equipment to launch the farm 21 years ago, says Mr. Taranov.

"For us, the situation is more or less normal," the 50-year-old Taranov says. "But our farm isn't typical.

"If the government invested as much in every farm as it did in ours," he continues, "then we'd have Communism in the country by now." Economic chaos blamed

But the government, of course, hasn't invested equally, and increasing chaos pervades all sectors of Soviet society as the country finds itself caught in the no-man's land between communism and capitalism. The agricultural sector has been particularly hard-hit, and with the harvest season in full-swing, officials are sounding the alarm.

"The situation is such that today the country faces a real threat of famine," said Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbakov during a recent television interview. "Everything has to be done to bring the harvest in."

Last year, the Soviet Union was hard-pressed to bring in a near-record grain harvest of 238 million tons. Projections this year are much lower - about 195 million tons. Severe drought in eastern Siberia and Kazakhstan, as well as recent flooding in the Ukraine, are largely responsible for the lower crop levels.

To make matters worse, there is a greater risk this year than ever before that crops will rot in the fields because of severe shortages of other goods, particularly fuel and spare parts, officials say.

"Many harvesting machines will remain idle," says Taranov. "This coming harvest will be the worst in 30 to 40 years."

So far this year, more than 48 million tons of grain have been harvested, according to the State Committee for Statistics. Of that total, however, only 19 million tons have been sold to the state - a signal of scarcities to come this winter. Many collective and state farms are withholding crops because they are needed as barter for badly needed supplies, officials say. Food running out

Already food shortages are being reported all across the nation, particularly in the Far East region. In a sign of growing desperation, armed gangs of black marketeers in the Far East have taken to raiding collective farms, causing crop losses of up to 30 percent, according to the official Tass news agency. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.