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Bulgaria: Poland To Lend 100,000 Tons Of Wheat

By Ivo Indzhev and Chris Klimiuk

Warsaw, 27 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Poland has agreed to lend 100,000 tons of wheat to Bulgaria, which is short of bread. The press officer for Bulgaria's President Petar Stoyanov, Irina Yordanova, said that Bulgaria would repay the wheat when the country's grain reserves allow it.

Our correspondent in Warsaw says Polish Deputy Prime Minister Roman Jagielinski has confirmed the agreement.

Poland's PAP news agency quotes Stoyanov as saying those who help Bulgaria quickly are offering help that is "two-fold." Stoyanov today is finishing a two-day visit to Warsaw.

Bread shortages broke out in Bulgaria after private businesses connected to the former Socialist government exported the state's grain reserves. Bulgarian farmers have told RFE/RL that they need a profit incentive before they will risk extensive planting again.

Meanwhile in Sofia, Bulgaria's caretaker government today announced drastic rises in the prices of electricity, heating and coal in its efforts to stabilise the country's crisis-ridden economy.

The price hikes, which come into effect March 1, average 257 percent.

Interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofiiansky told our Sofia correspondent that the increases, though painful, were necessary and inevitable.

Sofiiansky stressed that even these dramatic increases are not enough to match regional and international energy prices.

Meanwhile in a surprising sign of confidence in the caretaker government's economic measures, the national currency today kept its relatively stable position on the financial market, and was being exchanged below 2000 levs to the dollar. In recent weeks the lev has plunged dramatically in value.

Our correspondent says that one of the reasons for the new stability is optimism that an agreement for much-needed credits will soon be signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An IMF mission is currently in Sofia, negotiating conditions for extending the credits.