Medvedev calls for cheaper loans to Russian farmers

Harvesting wheat on the fields of Agrofirma Rossiya in the Krasnodar Territory. © Vitaliy Timkiv
As Russia shifts its economy from energy exports to agriculture, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wants to ease borrowing costs for the country’s farmers.

On Wednesday, he met with farmers from Russia's southern Krasnodar region. They said they currently take out loans with 14 percent annual interest, but with government subsidies the rate is six percent.

“Six is OK, but it’s better the rate was cut to five percent,” Medvedev said.

He also backed the idea of giving out unused land to farmers without red tape."Speaking about the possibility of giving out unused land to farmers without a bid process, I believe that it would be a good idea," said the prime minister. 

According to Medvedev, legislation changes have made things easier, but not to the extent the government would like.

He added that the government should continue to subsidize farmers. "The most important thing now is not to slow down. That is why the program will continue in full,” he said.

After oil prices fell from $114 per barrel two years ago to around $45 currently, Russia has been trying to diversify its economy, which is heavily dependent on energy exports.

The country has become the world’s biggest wheat exporter, overtaking the US and Canada. According to Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachev, the country wants to sell 25 million tons of wheat abroad this year.

READ MORE: Russia dominates global wheat market

In 2015, Russia harvested 13.2 million tons of corn, 1.1 million tons of rice, 2.7 million tons of soybeans and 900,000 tons of buckwheat, the minister said. Last year’s grain harvest was about 104.8 million tons.