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Ukraine denies curbing wheat exports

Minister expects that exports could rise in March

Ukraine's government said Wednesday it had not urged grain traders to limit wheat exports, denying local media reports it had done so, and it forecast that there would be no shortages of grain on the domestic market.

"There are no recommendations to limit wheat exports," Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk told reporters.

"Traders are telling us they will not be able to export more than 300,000-500,000 tonnes of wheat a month and our balance (of exports and consumption) allows for that."

Ukrainian media reported last week that traders and the government had agreed to limit exports of wheat due to the threat of future shortages following weather damage to winter crop plantings.

Prysyazhnyuk said drought during the winter sowing in 2011 and severe frosts in January-February had damaged about 7.4 million acres of Ukrainian winter grains and 1.24 million acres of winter rapeseed.

"We expect that all of these areas would be reseeded this spring. We recommend farmers to sow corn, spring wheat, barley, soybean and these crops allow us to keep the harvest at a high level," he said.

He said Ukraine would harvest 42 million to 50 million tonnes of grain this year, including 15 million to 16 million tonnes of wheat, adding that this would be enough to meet domestic demand.

Ukraine harvested a record of 56.7 million tonnes of grain in 2011, including 22.3 million tonnes of wheat. But this year's winter crops have been hit by drought and extreme cold.

"There is no threat of grain shortages on the domestic market even under the pessimistic scenario (42 million tonnes)," Prysyazhnyuk told reporters.

Ukraine, he said, consumed no more than 26.5 million tonnes of grain per season.

Prysyazhnyuk said high ending stocks and a moderate harvest would lay the groundwork for stable grain and bread prices in the 2012-13 season.

Analysts forecast the 2012 grain harvest at 40 million to 45 million tonnes, including 12 million to 14 million tonnes of wheat.

Exports

Prysyazhnyuk said Ukraine had exported 12.5 million tonnes of grain, mostly corn, so far this season but the pace of exports was slow.

"We exported about two million tonnes of grain in January and only 1.2 million so far February. I think the exports could exceed 1.5 million tonnes this month and I want to see exports of about two million in March," he said.

Analysts forecast exports of about one million tonnes this month due to logistical difficulties at Ukrainian sea ports. They also said Ukraine's marine exports totalled about 510,000 tonnes of grain in the first 15 days of February.

According to analysts' data, Ukraine exported 2.26 million tonnes of grain in January against 2.2 million tonnes in December and in November.

UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy said the former Soviet republic had exported 11.07 million tonnes in July-January, compared to 7.3 million tonnes in the same period in 2011-12 when the government limited export by quotas.

The consultancy said Ukraine had exported six million tonnes of corn, 2.8 million tonnes of wheat and 1.8 million tonnes of barley so far this season.


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