Russia May Extend Grain Export Ban

Russia, worried by soaring food prices and a shortage of grain to feed its livestock, may extend its ban on grain exports until the end of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said.

“We are working on potential forecasts that involve keeping the ban in place until the end of the year,” Zubkov told reporters on March 2. “We see what is happening on the food markets, and we don’t see any improvement.”

In a bid to ward off imports and restrain food inflation after a catastrophic drought last year, Russia banned exports until July 1, and government officials have said they will decide whether to extend the ban when prospects for the new harvest are clear.

In the meantime, food prices are driving rapid consumer price growth, which slowed in February only with an intervention from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on fuel prices. Overall prices have grown 3.2 per cent already this year.

“It’s not just the volume (of the harvest) that will determine whether to lift the ban or not. There are a lot of factors, like which cereals we’ll have and how much,” said Zubkov, Russia’s top agriculture official.

“Second, our livestock industry is developing quickly and we need to look carefully at consumption (of feed grain),” he added.

Last year’s drought slashed the harvest by more than a third from the previous year to 60.9 million tonnes. The worst shortages due to that are being felt by meat and dairy producers whose feed costs are spiralling, where feed can be bought at all.

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