3 Aug 2010 14:37

Agriculture Ministry lowers grain harvest forecast to 70-75 mln tonnes

NOVOSIBIRSK. Aug 3 (Interfax) - Russia's grain harvest this year is anticipated to be 70-75 million tonnes, Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexander Belyaev told reporters in Novosibirsk on Tuesday.

A more updated forecast will be offered when the reaping begins in Siberian regions, after August 15, Belyaev said. "We should get from 70 to 75 million tonnes, I think," he said.

Speaking at the third international Zernovaya Sibir (Grain Siberia) conference, Belyaev said Russia had already threshed 35.5 million tonnes of grain. "There are sufficient resources in the country for everything to turn out reliably well. We have 21.5 million tonnes of grain left over and 35.5 million tonnes has already been threshed," he said.

In Russia's drought-stricken regions, however, things are a lot getting a lot tougher as regards the laying-in of animal feeds than with grain. "The situation is especially difficult in Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Samara, Volgograd, Saratov, Lipetsk, and the Astrakhan region," he said.

States of emergency have been declared in areas covering 10 million hectares, Belyaev said. Grain on 10 million hectares of the almost 48 million planted has been wiped out by drought and unusually hot weather this year.

"These areas of Russia and agricultural producers will be given simple assistance - three-year credits will be issued, most of all for feed," he said.

A decision might be made soon to start delivering grain from the Intervention Fund to the suffering regions, Belyaev said. And Russia plans to keep its grain exports at last year's levels.

Belyaev said that the price for grain would likely not change substantially. "It is now coming between 4,500 and 5,500 rubles per tonne on the market. We would like to hold at this level," he said, adding that 5,500 rubles was a respectable price.

He also said that the government's tariff and customs commission would review railway tariffs for transporting grain from Siberia in the near future. "A 50% discount is now in effect, starting from the 1,001st kilometer. We will review this [the discount] starting from the first kilometer," Belyaev said, adding that this issue would also be reviewed in the near future. "I think this will be soon because Russia's central region needs grain," he also said.

The country exported 21.4 million tonnes last year, and this year's grain and that left over from last year will suffice to meet both domestic and export needs, Belyaev said.

The Agriculture Ministry had earlier projected a grain harvest of under 85 million tonnes versus last year's 97 million tonnes.