Russian areas with grain crops grow to 47.2 million hectares in 2008

(Interfax News Agency) -- Russia increased the area for grain crops by 2.3 million hectares (5.2%) to 47.2 million hectares in 2008, the State Statistics Service said this week.

Wheat was sown on 2.2 million additional hectares, the service said. Seventy-six percent of all grain crops were sown by public farms, and the share of private farmers enlarged to 23% as against 22.5% last year.

Areas for sunflower increased by 16.8% to 6.2 million hectares.

Public farms sowed 64.7% of sunflower, while private farms sowed 34.9%, as against 34.8% last year.

Sugar beet was sown on 0.8 million hectares or 22.7% less than last year. Public farms sowed 87.9% of sugar beat, and private farms sowed 11% (as against 13.3% last year).

Potatoes were planted on 2.1 million hectares (1.6% more than last year) and vegetables - on 0.6 million hectares (2.2%). Most of the potatoes and vegetables (1.8 million hectares and 476,000 hectares correspondingly) were planted by private farmers.

The Russian Agriculture Ministry said that Russia may collect over 85 million tonnes of grain in 2008 as against 81.8 million in 2007.