STATE ENCOURAGES RICE-GROWING
Rice-growing in Bulgaria is increasing and this tendency will persist over the next years, experts from the Agrostatistics Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, claim. Domestic production of rice totalled 18,000 tons in 2004, up by more than 2,500 tons the output in 2003. Yields also rose considerably - from 420 kg/dca in 2003 to 496 kg/dca last year. The 2005 crop is expected to exceed 20,000 tons. In fact, the change will be not only in the quantity, but also in the quality, members of the Union of Rice Producers claim. According to them, more and more good-quality seeds and varieties will be planted. Even with the present growth, however, rice production in Bulgaria does not satisfy even half of the domestic market's needs, which exceed 42,000 kg annually. The insufficiency is supplemented by imports, mainly from China (70%), and Egypt (24%). Smaller quantities are imported from Thailand, Greece, and Italy. Considering that ratio, it is not surprising that the export of Bulgarian rice is relatively small. But according to data of the Customs Agency, it is also rising steadily. In 2003, for instance, 2,400 tons were exported, bringing more than BGN1MN in proceeds. Of the entire quantity 1,400 tons were processed rice, and 993 tons - brown rice. In 2004 export reached 2,800 tons and is expected to rise even further this year. According to the figures of the Union of Rice Producers, purchase prices of brown rice for the last three crops were around BGN400/ton after VAT and slightly rose for the 2004 crop - to BGN420/ton due to the increase of international prices. That reflected on the prices of processed rice on commodity exchanges and they reached BGN750/ton, up 4% from the previous year. However, retail prices registered a downward trend, decreasing to BGN1.05/kg. Last autumn prices slightly rose to BGN1.07-1.08/kg, but there has been no change since then. A guarantee for increasing rice-growing is the policy of the Agriculture State Fund, which has been subsiding rice production for two years now. Almost BGN60,000 of target subsidies were released for yields from the 2003 crop and another BGN32,000 for the purchase of good-quality seeds. The State's support became still more tangible in 2004 when from the BGN410,000 earmarked for watering, more than BGN127,000 was utilized.