Russia will not lift its grain export ban before September or October 2011 as the government wants to ensure stable domestic supplies, Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik said on Friday.
"Now our main goal is to efficiently and timely sow 50 million hectares to spring crops, including grain on at least 30 million hectares, which will translate into an 85 million ton harvest," Skrynnik told a news conference.
"At the end of September or October we will count the volume of our harvest and only after that can we decide whether we lift or extend the grain export embargo. Export resumption is one of our priority goals."
Russia was struck by a severe drought and heat wave last year, pushing grain production down 36% to 60.9 million tons and forcing the government to prohibit wheat, barley, rye, corn and flour exports for the first time in the post-Soviet period.
Skrynnik said Russia needed an 85 million ton harvest to lift the embargo. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has said he did not rule out an extension beyond the end of 2011.
Russian Grain Union President Arkady Zlochevsky told a separate news conference he expected an 86 million ton harvest, although spring crop sowing started two weeks later than last year due to an unusualy long cold spell.
Among risk factors Zlochevsky mentioned that farmers had only received 24 billion rubles of loans from 147 billion rubles needed to achieve the forecast. Outdated machinery, low quality seeds and high prices for fertilizers also put the future harvest at risk.
MOSCOW, March 25 (RIA Novosti)