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Russian wheat export prices up on strong demand, rouble

Reuters, 23.04.18

MOSCOW, April 23 (Reuters) - Russian wheat export prices rose last week due to hefty demand, lower supply from export-focused regions in Russia's south and a stronger rouble currency, analysts said on Monday.

Strong oil prices drove the rouble higher against the dollar last week after the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Moscow had battered Russian markets earlier in the month.

Black Sea prices for Russian wheat with 12.5 percent protein content for delivery in April or early May were at $214.5 a tonne free on board (FOB) at the end of last week, up $2.5 from a week earlier, Russian agricultural consultancy IKAR said in a note.

SovEcon, another Moscow-based consultancy, quoted FOB wheat prices up $3 at $213 a tonne, while maize (corn) prices were steady at $203 a tonne.

"The growth of wheat export prices can be linked to active demand from importers and a reduction in supply in the domestic market of export-focused southern regions," SovEcon said.

"After a rapid (rouble) weakening in the previous week, many agricultural producers took a wait-and-see attitude and are in no hurry with their sales," it added.

As of April 18, Russia had exported 42.3 million tonnes of grain since the start of the 2017/18 season on July 1, including 33 million tonnes of wheat, the Agriculture Ministry said. Grain exports were up 42 percent from the same period of the previous season.

Grain exports in April will be higher than originally expected, SovEcon said.

It upgraded its forecast for Russia's 2017/18 grain exports to 51.9 million tonnes from the previously expected 50.2 million tonnes. The estimate for wheat was raised by 1.4 million tonnes to 39.7 million tonnes.

As of April 19, farmers had sown spring grains on 6 percent of the planned area, or 1.9 million hectares, compared with 5.5 million hectares a year ago, according to the agriculture ministry.

The delay is mainly caused by cold and rainy weather in Russia's central regions which is expected to persist this week, SovEcon said. The delay may slash sowing area for barley.

The sowing in the Volga region is also likely to be delayed by the same reasons, it added. However, the pace of sowing, weather and moisture in soil remain favourable for Russia's southern region where the main export-focused producers are located.

Domestic prices for fourth-class wheat jumped by 275 roubles to 8,600 roubles ($139) a tonne at the end of last week in the European part of Russia on an ex-works basis, according to SovEcon. Ex-works supply does not include delivery costs.

Sunflower seed prices jumped 700 roubles to 20,775 roubles a tonne, SovEcon said. Domestic sunflower oil prices rose 750 roubles to 44,000 roubles, while export oil prices added $5 to $755 a tonne.

IKAR's white sugar price index for southern Russia was at $515.9 a tonne as of April 20, up $0.4 from the previous week.

($1 = 61.9580 roubles)

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