Putin slashes Russia harvest forecast due to drought
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday slashed the leading wheat producer's grain harvest forecast due to a record drought, saying it would produce 10 million tonnes less than planned.
Russia's grain harvest for 2010 will be 60-65 million tonnes, Putin said at a meeting with Agriculture Minister Elena Skrynnik, Russian news agencies reported.
Only last week, Skrynnik's deputy had given a forecast of 70-75 million tonnes.
The country has seen 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land destroyed in the drought and the new figure represents a massive fall compared with its 2009 harvest of 97 million tonnes.
Putin last week shocked international markets by announcing that from August 15 Russia would ban exports to keep prices down at home and ensure there was enough feed grain for its cattle herd.
The ban is to run until December 31, when it will be reviewed, the government said then.
Putin indicated Monday he would be in no hurry to lift the ban.
"There is no need to count on a quick removal of the export ban," Putin said.
He said Russia required 78 million tonnes of grain for its domestic needs and would be able to cover the shortfall with 9.5 million tonnes from a state fund and 21 million tonnes left over from last year's harvest.
© 2010 AFP