Today in Russian Business – Aug 19, 2010

President Dmitry Medvedev says that Russia wants to cooperate on Afghan economic matters by ‘reviving Soviet-era public works‘, such as hydroelectric stations and bridges.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Russia is negotiating the sale of 20 helicopters for Afghanistan, supposedly to be paid for by NATO.  Russia will likely become a net grain importer this year, meaning that it will import more than it exports, with latest estimates at around 5 million tons (mainly from Kazakhstan).  Barley crops are doing particularly badly, creating a greater need for imports, but the drought is affecting corn, vegetable, and sugar.  Polluted air did nothing to dampen retail sales growth last month, and consumer prices rose in part because people were stocking up on supplies due to fears about the drought, says Reuters.  The next season of crops is unlikely to be sown until September 10, although this does not yet give cause for concern, says a weather forecasting analyst.  The Kremlin has banned the sale of spirits between 10pm and 10am in a bid to curb ‘a habit that kills half a million people a year‘.  The Kremlin denies rumors that its cultural watchdog, Rosokhrankultura, would be scrapped for opposing Gazprom’s planned Okhta Business Center in St Petersburg – and it is thought that the center will be built despite complaints.