Russia says no grain export curbs planned

MOSCOW/HAMBURG (Reuters) – Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, does not plan to impose restrictions on grain exports, the Agriculture Ministry said on Wednesday, dismissing as untrue media reports that it had set quotas on exports for traders.

Speculation that Russia could limit exports in the 2018/19 season, which lasts until June 30, has periodically supported global wheat prices in recent months, as at its regular meetings with big exporters the ministry is closely monitoring how they are faring given a lower 2018 crop.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Vedomosti daily quoted trade sources and unnamed officials as saying that Russia had set informal grain export quotas to prevent traders shipping out an amount above the ministry’s export forecast.

Exporters were informed about the quotas at a meeting with the agriculture ministry, Vedomosti said, adding that the agriculture safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, had started more careful checks for grain exports.

The ministry said that its forecast for Russia’s 2018/19 grain exports of 42 million tonnes had been set taking into account the data of key exporters.

Russia has already exported 33.4 million tonnes of grain so far this season, unchanged from a year ago. Shipments have been slowing down recently due to seasonally lower supply.

Since September, the ministry regularly meets major trade firms where they discuss their actual supplies, their plans and the ministry’s stance on Russia’s grain exportable surplus. The last meeting was held in February.

“The ministry does not currently see any prerequisites for its (the forecast) review and does not discuss the introduction of any restrictive measures for grain exports,” the ministry said.

Tougher quality controls by Rosselkhoznadzor have been in place on and off since September, traders told Reuters previously. The body provides phytosanitary certificates for each grain supply abroad.

“Rosselkhoznadzor’s checking and dealing with issues with phyto may be at different levels day to day,” a trader said on Wednesday, commenting on Vedomosti’s report. “The report seems to be more interpretation than new information.”

Traders’ concerns about export quotas, reflected in Vedomosti’s report, were voiced amid continuing talks between trade majors and the ministry, which wants them to create a new association of grain exporters by April, when it starts discussing their plans for the new 2019/20 season.

While some market players are concerned about the new body’s independence from Russian officials, the agriculture ministry has said it wanted the new association to be a strong union and include foreign trade houses.

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