Russia’s Massive 100 Million-Ton Wheat Crop Piles Up at Home

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(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s wheat harvest could reach a historic 100 million tons, according to consultant SovEcon, with the commodity piling up at home as the nation struggles to export large volumes.

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Farmers across the country are finishing up the bountiful harvest after good growing conditions throughout the summer. The huge supply in the world’s top shipper would usually help to bring down world prices. But so far this season, government export taxes and logistical issues from its war in Ukraine are keeping more grain than usual at home.

“Storage has been an issue for a few months for some farmers,” SovEcon Managing Director Andrey Sizov said by phone. “We haven’t seen anything like this since 2017-18.”

Russian wheat export prices have recently turned more competitive against other origins like France and the US, meaning that shipments could increase. Higher prices and issues with shipping Russian cargoes -- some insurers and banks shunned Russian commodities after its invasion of Ukraine in February -- slowed exports earlier in the season. Food exports are not targeted by sanctions, but some institutions are wary of doing business with Russia as a result of those measures.

Wheat prices spiked globally after a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports strangled that country’s exports, pushing up food prices. While a deal to reopen the ports struck in July helped ease prices, the escalation of the war in Ukraine has sent wheat back to levels seen before the agreement.

The International Grains Council also hiked its Russian wheat crop estimate by almost 6 million tons on Thursday, but it doesn’t expect that extra supply to leave the country -- keeping the export outlook unchanged at 36.5 million tons. Consultant IKAR also raised its wheat harvest estimate to 99 million to 100 million tons, according to Interfax.

“This huge crop is not fully converting into huge exports,” SovEcon’s Sizov said.

(Updates with IKAR forecast in sixth paragraph)

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