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Russia to lift grain export ban on July 1

From Maxim Tkachenko, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia had poor grain harvests in 2010
  • The outlook looks better this year
  • Prime minister announces lifting of export ban
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Moscow (CNN) -- Russia will lift its grain export ban on July 1 this year, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Saturday.

Putin made the announcement at his country residence during a meeting with Viktor Zubkov, his deputy in charge of agriculture. The meeting was shown on Russian state TV.

The temporary ban has been in effect since Aug. 15, 2010, following an unprecedented six-week heat wave and drought that wiped out crops in many farming areas.

The 2010 grain harvests amounted to just 60.9 million tons -- a staggering 37% drop from 2009, according to the Russian Agriculture Ministry. Russia -- which had been the world's third-largest wheat exporter -- stopped all exports of wheat, rye, barley and corn, as well as flour, boosting a sharp increase in world grain prices.

Despite a late spring, sowing in most regions is going well, and a good harvest is expected this year, Zubkov said.

"We are lifting the grain export ban from July 1 this year, but I am asking you to work most actively, as you did in recent years, and ensure the work of the agriculture ministry, other government departments and financial institutions so as to support our agricultural producers in this difficult period, and the sowing campaign, which is not fully over yet, let alone the harvesting," Putin said.

"You should very carefully monitor what is happening in this economic sector that it so important for us and, using all our mechanisms, support agricultural producers," Putin told Zubkov.

"The lifting of the export ban is one of the measures to support agricultural producers who today have an export potential," Putin said.

The government forecast for the 2011 wheat crop has been set at about 85 million tons, and agriculture experts estimate that with the grain export ban lifted, Russia may export 10 to 13 million tons of grain in 2011, mostly wheat.