Parched Russia slashes grain harvest forecast: official
Russia, one of the world's top wheat exporters, said on Tuesday it was cutting the grain harvest forecast for this year by millions of tonnes owing to its worst drought for years.
"I think we will have (a grain harvest of) 70-75 million tonnes," Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexander Belyayev told reporters in the Siberian city of Novosibrisk, Russian news agencies reported.
He said the ministry would give a more precise forecast once the harvest starts in Siberia from mid-August.
Russia had a bumper harvest of 97 million tonnes of grain in 2009 and the agriculture ministry had already forecast that the harvest would be lower this year at 85 million tonnes.
But the severity of the drought -- which has seen emergency situations declared in several key Russian grain-producing regions -- has forced it to revise its forecast further.
Russia is already one of the world's biggest wheat exporters and has been targeting ramping up massively its market share over the next years by modernising equipment and exploiting its full agricultural potential.
The country had launched a drive to increase its share of the global grain market with the aim of more than doubling its grain exports to 40-50 million tonnes a year. But this year it is expected to export only about 20 million tonnes.
A country notorious for its bitterly cold winters, Russia is enduring its severest heatwave for decades which saw all-time temperature records tumble throughout July.
© 2010 AFP