Russia downplays fresh talk of grain export levies

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Russia has countered a fresh round of speculation over the introduction of import tariffs, saying there was "no point" in duties, even as Ukraine moved to ditch levies it imposed last month.

Sergei Sukhov, a senior Russian farm ministry official, said that a rise in wheat prices, which has become evident on the domestic market as well as in exports, reflected a dearth of competition from Black Sea neighbours.

"For now, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are not present on the markets where we are operating," said, Mr Sukhov, a head in market regulation operations, said.

When Ukraine and Kazakhstan, who like Russia are regarded as keen price competitors, do return, "the market will regulate itself".

‘Could impose a levy’

The comments follow a revival in speculation that Russia could impose a levy on shipments, both as a potential revenue earner and to underpin domestic supplies, amid a drive to support domestic meat production.

Agritel, the Paris-based consultancy, on Friday noted that "recent [rising] prices in Russia could lead to export tariffs, should business remain strong".

Russia sold 240,000 tonnes of grain to Egypt on Thursday at an average of $294.64 a tonne, a rise of 18% in a month, far outpacing a rise in Chicago futures and reducing the discount to French and US supplies to some $10 a tonne – excluding freight – and to Australian ones to some $9 a tonne.

A month ago, Russian wheat exports were more than $30 a tonne cheaper than French and US ones.

In June, before Russia lifted a ban on shipments imposed following last year’s drought, Viktor Zubkov, deputy prime minister, had suggested a levy on exports priced at 6,500 roubles ($225) a tonne or above.

Domestic prices remain well below these levels, but have rebounded strongly from late-July lows, lifted by firm exports and the passing, in many regions, of harvest, and pressure from raised supplies.

In the north Caucasus, milling wheat has recovered some 650 roubles a tonne in four weeks, according to data from analysis group SovEcon.

Ukraine tariffs to go?

Chances of stiffer competition from Ukraine rose on Friday when the country’s farm ministry unveiled plans, which must be agreed by the economy ministry, to ditch grain subsidies blamed for a fall of 30% in exports for the first 40 days of 2011-12.

"How quickly, it is difficult to predict. But I think this won’t take much time," Sergey Feofilov, managing director at Kiev-based analysis group UkrAgroConsult said.

The tariffs imposed were: for wheat, 9% of the contract price, with a minimum of E17 a tonne; for barley, 14%, with a minimum of E23 a tonne; and for corn, a 12% charge, but not less than E20 a tonne.

Kazakhstan has forecast exports of more than 10m tonnes in 2011-12, from a harvest forecast by farm minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov at 18.9m tonnes.


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