Russia extends grain export ban to autumn: minister

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Russia said on Friday it will extend until the autumn a ban on grain exports, seen as a major factor in rising global food prices, saying it will only decide whether to lift the ban after September.

Agriculture Minister Elena Skrynnik told reporters Russia would reconsider lifting the ban no sooner than late September or October, after the harvest.

"We will calculate harvest volumes at the end of September - October, only after that will one be able to reach a decision -- whether to extend or cancel the grain export embargo," Russian news agencies quoted her as saying.

After a record drought last summer destroyed a quarter of Russia's harvest, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning grain exports from August 15 to December 31.

He then said Russia would not lift the ban before next year's harvest, extending the major world producer's embargo until at least mid-2011.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, Russia's top agriculture official, said last year that the government would not lift its ban on grain exports before July 1, 2011.

He added that last month the government could prolong the ban beyond that provisional expiry date.

Skrynnik was quoted as saying that the government hoped to harvest 85 million tonnes of grain this year.

The wheat export ban has been cited as one of the many factors behind the rise in food prices which helped spark the social unrest and revolutions that have recently swept much of the Arab world.

© 2011 AFP

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