Russian grain farm moves to become major exporter

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russian agriculture holding company Steppe plans to ramp up grain exports sharply this season, part of its bid to become one of top five traders of Russian grain by 2020, the company said last week.

Steppe, part of Russian business conglomerate Sistema , will also seek to join the supplier list of Egypt’s state-run General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), said a source familiar with Steppe’s plans.

“An accreditation with the GASC and other international tenders is planned,” the source said.

Egypt is the world’s top wheat importer and the largest buyer of Russian wheat. Russia itself is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, though it faces a fall in its grain crop this year after a record harvest in 2017.

Steppe, which harvested a record grain crop of 1.4 million tonnes in 2017, produces grain, dairy, fruit and vegetables on 940,000 acres in southern Russia. Sistema has previously said it could take the company public in 2020.

It exported 457,000 tonnes of grain, including 60,000 tonnes it purchased from other producers, in the 2017-18 marketing season that ended June 30. Russia exported 52 million tonnes of grain in that season.

It plans to increase exports to 2.1 million tonnes of grain in the current 2018-19 season, including 1.4 million tonnes of other companies’ crops and 700,000 tonnes of its own production, it said. Exports will be via Steppe Trading SA, the branch it created in Switzerland in 2018.

Steppe is seeking to expand its export activities at a time when competition for access to grain shipping infrastructure is high, with Russia’s ports busy with the new harvest after running at maximum capacity during the 2017 record crop.

To address this, the company has established a relationship with Novorossiysk Grain Terminal, co-owned by Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, and another terminal, KSK, it said.

Russia’s Alfa Bank is helping it to finance grain operations, it added.

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