UNCLAS VILNIUS 000715
EMBASSY WARSAW FOR AGRICULTURAL ATTACHE ERIC WENBERG
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR ETRD TBIO LH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
Â¶1. Summary. On December 18th Ambassador Derse made her
first call on Minister of Agriculture Kazys Starkevicius to
learn more about Lithuania's agricultural sector, which
accounts for 4.5% of Lithuania's GDP. They shared ideas on
business exchange opportunities such as the upcoming visit of
agricultural industry representatives from Nebraska and
Lithuania's AgroBalt exhibition in the spring. Starkevicius
said that the economic crisis has not had a big impact on
Lithuania's agriculture industry noting that exports are
largely unchanged from one year ago. He said that trade
disputes with Russia remain a concern. Starkevicius also
discussed agriculture programs that the GOL is implementing
in coordination with the EU. End summary.
Â¶2. Starkevicius said that 29% of Lithuania's agricultural
exports go to Russia. He expressed concern about Russia's
interference with Lithuanian dairy exports last summer.
Starkevicius explained that Russia has more stringent
standards than the EU for antibiotic content in dairy
products. He said that Lithuanian products must meet both
standards and alluded that the problem with Russia was more
political than technical. (Note: on December 28 Russia
prohibited the import of meat and cheese from two Lithuanian
producers, reigniting this perennial problem).
Â¶3. Starkevicius discussed several EU agricultural programs
underway in Lithuania including a rural development plan to
preserve cultural heritage sites such as churches and
markets. The GOL is also using EU funds to offer incentives
for agricultural workers to seek employment in other sectors
to help diversify the economy. Starkevicius added that the
GOL will open a Land Bank on July 1 to encourage the leasing
of abandoned land by developers who will cultivate the
properties. He explained that there are 444,000 hectares of
abandoned land in Lithuania that were purchased for
speculative purposes and are now unused.
Â¶4. The Ambassador highlighted an upcoming visit by 31
agricultural industry representatives from Nebraska who will
participate in a Leadership Education Action Development
(LEAD) international study seminar in the Baltic States
January 11-22. The group will meet with MOA officials to
exchange ideas on agriculture programs and to identify
prospects for business opportunities. The Nebraska group will
also meet with U.S. Embassy representatives for an overview
on foreign policy goals and the investment climate in
Lithuania. Starkevicius said that his team would like to
take advantage of this opportunity learn more about U.S.
agricultural support programs.
Â¶5. Starkevicius said that Lithuania will host the annual
AgroBalt 2010 exhibition April 29 - May 1. He asked if the
U.S. Embassy would be willing to operate a booth and invite
U.S. business representatives to participate. Ambassador
Derse assured him that our Embassy will work with our
Agricultural Attach in Warsaw to disseminate this request.