Victor Yushchenko has attended a ceremony in Kyiv’s International Center of Culture and Arts to present state awards to farmers, who celebrate their professional holiday on November 19, president's press office reported.

In his speech, the President said agriculture had traditionally been one of the leading branches of the national economy. Thus the revival of farming in Ukraine, he said, was our top priority in the area of national security.

Yushchenko said the government was going to invest UAH 11 bln in the development of the sector in 2007 and introduce special subsidies. It has so far improved the investment climate, raised salaries to farmers and reduced salary debts by 22%.

“It is our foremost obligation to pay people what they earn,” he said, addressing government officials and heads of farming companies.

The President promised to control the implementation of next year’s agricultural budget.

“I assure you that the agricultural sector will be efficiently supported,” he said.

Mr. Yushchenko said it was incumbent on the government to financially renew the sector and promote its competitiveness. He criticized the government for limiting the exportation of some agricultural products.

“The industry should have a maximum market of demand,” he said.

He also said he could not understand why the government had decided to export less grain. 

“Financial policy of the country should be aimed at creating motivations not covering some deficit,” he said, adding that First Deputy Premier Mykola Azarov had recently assured him the problem would be resolved by the middle of November.

As far as Ukraine’s WTO prospects, the President said the experience of the neighboring countries proved that integration into this international organization posed no threat to our agriculture but would stimulate its development. He called on members of parliament to approve 21 WTO bills, adding that it was “the issue of national significance.”

“If Ukraine does not use its chance to join the WTO – and there is such a chance until December 21 – it will lag in this direction many more years,” he said. 

Mr. Yushchenko also said it was important to legalize the agricultural business and institute liberal reforms in the sector.

First Deputy Premier Mykola Azarov, Agriculture Minister Yuriy Melnyk and Secretariat Chief of Staff Viktor Baloha attended the event. 


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