Russian wheat ban raises price fears

A self-propelled combine harvests on a field near a village of Meshcherskoye, some 50 km south of Moscow.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Russian farmers can no longer sell their wheat outside of Russia. A ban's been imposed because of a brutal heatwave and devastating wildfires there. The export limits have raised fears that global food prices could start to skyrocket -- sparking anoter food crisis. A crisis reminiscent of one that happened just a few years ago.

From Moscow, the BBC's Tom Esslemont reports.


Tom Esslemont: It's the third largest wheat exporter in the world after Canada and the United States. But the fertile plains of Southern Russia are parched and crops are wilting under the scorching sun. With the grain harvest down by at least a third, prices in the country have already started to rise.

But traders say other grain exporting-coutnries will help fill the gap -- including the United States, which is expecting a bumper harvest.

James Walton is chief economist at IGD, which analyzes the global food industry. He says fear of a global food crisis are premature.

JAMES WALTON: The situation that we have today is actually slightly different from the situation that we saw a couple of years ago. Food markets are actually much better prepared for this problem. We have much more in stock. We've had a couple of years of really good harvests. I don't think there's any need to panic just yet.

But it's not just Russia that's in a difficult position. It's neighbor, Ukraine, is also blighted by the heatwave and has predicted a poor harvest, and may also announce limits on exports.

Even after the wildfires are put out, the situation won't resolve itself. The Russian ban is due to continue until the end of the year, but could remain in place until well into 2011.

In Moscow, I'm the BBC's Tom Esslemont for Marketplace.

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