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Russia’s wheat prices fall, pressured by global market

Business Recorder, 03.10.14

MOSCOW: Russian wheat export prices fell last week and are expected to continue declining this week as local traders seek to stay competitive with the low prices of major global rivals, analysts said on Monday.

Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, has been less competitive in its traditional export markets in recent weeks due to strong domestic demand. Its prices have been relatively high despite a near record harvest and weakening of the rouble. "This time Russian wheat was not able to ignore a new wave of sales on global markets," Russia's SovEcon, an agriculture consultancy, said in a note. November wheat futures in Paris last week touched their weakest level since July 2010.

SovEcon pegged free-on-board (FOB) prices for Russian wheat with 12.5 percent protein content in deep-water ports at $237 per tonne, down $8.50 on the week. In shallow-water ports prices were down $3.50 at $215 per tonne, it said.

Russia's September grain exports are likely to reach 3.7 million tonnes, down from a previously expected 4.2 million tonnes, said Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, another agriculture consultancy. Russian prices for wheat fell to $236 per tonne at the end of last week from $240 per tonne a week ago, according to IKAR.

Its quote was on an FOB basis seen in the Black Sea at the end of last week. "Partially it was caused by a weather factor: there were storms in the Black Sea. But there was also some cooling in demand," Rylko said. Since the start of September, Russia has shipped about 3 million tonnes of grain to customers, including the major consumers of its wheat in North Africa and the Middle East.

SovEcon also expects September grain exports of as much as 3.7 million tonnes after a record 4.6 million tonnes in August. A week ago IKAR said that to be competitive with French and US origins in Egypt's tenders, Russian FOB Black Sea prices for wheat would have to decline to $230-231 per tonne.

There is a tendency for a further price decline in Russia's domestic market, IKAR said on Monday, adding that state interventions, the buying of grain on the market to replenish stocks, are unlikely to be large, because domestic prices are still high.

Russia's state grain interventions are due to start on Sept. 30 and are expected to be focused first of all on Crimea region, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine in early 2014 and which is unable to export most of its crop due to legal issues.

In the domestic sunflower seed market, SovEcon said prices rose 75 roubles to 11,875 roubles ($300) as prospects for the crop had been worsening, while FOB Black Sea prices for crude sunflower oil rose by $10 to $770 a tonne.

Russia has already harvested 4.5 million tonnes of the oil seeds from 40 percent of the planned area, up from 2.1 million tonnes a year ago.

However, yields are down at 1.62 tonnes per hectare compared with 2.04 a year ago. SovEcon has previously expected the 2014 sunflower seed crop at 8.8 million tonnes. IKAR's white sugar price index for Russia's south was down $4 at $621 per tonne compared with a week earlier.

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