In 1998, Russia had 128 million ha (316.2 million acres) of arable land (8.5% of the world's total), covering 76% of the country's land area. In 2001, the share of agriculture in the GDP was 7%. Agricultural production dropped by an average of 6% annually during 1990–2000. A surge in imports of food products during that period is the direct result of difficulties faced by domestic farmers and processors, and has brought with it a desire for protection from foreign competition in the name of national security. In 2001, Russia's agricultural trade deficit was nearly $7.6 billion, fourth highest in the world.
The 1999 harvest included (in millions of tons): potatoes, 31.2; wheat, 30.9; sugar beets, 15.2; barley, 10.6; vegetables, 11.1; oats, 4.4; rye, 4.7; sunflower seeds, 4.2; rice, 0.4; corn, 0.3; and soybeans, 0.3. The government is promoting the expansion of small-plot farming; about 150,000 new farms have begun operating since 1991, primarily in the south.
Agricultural policy has changed several times since market reforms began. Low interest loans were initially offered to the old state farms, but the government's budget soon could not afford all the demands made by farmers. The low interest loans were replaced by in-kind loans to suppliers, which were then modified to in-kind loans from the federal government to local governments. The general agricultural policy trend is now an ongoing devolution of power from the federal government to local governments.