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Russia bans grain exports amid drought

Russia announced that it would ban grain exports through the end of the year, a response to a drought that has destroyed millions of acres of wheat and hobbled the nation's agricultural revival.
A field of unidentified cereals burning near the town of Voronezh some 294 miles south of Moscow, after after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. A severe drought has destroyed one-fifth of the wheat crop in Russia.
A field of unidentified cereals burning near the town of Voronezh some 294 miles south of Moscow, after after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. A severe drought has destroyed one-fifth of the wheat crop in Russia.Mikhail Metzel / AP
/ Source: The New York Times

Russia announced Thursday that it would ban grain exports through the end of the year, a response to a scorching drought that has destroyed millions of acres of Russian wheat and hobbled the country’s agricultural revival.

The ban on grain exports by Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat producers, helped propel wheat prices in the United States toward their highest levels in nearly two years and raised the prospect that consumers could pay more for products like flour and bread as Russia tries to conserve its supplies of wheat, barley and other grains for its own people.

In announcing the ban, which is in force from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said that Russia had sufficient stockpiles of grain but that blocking exports was an appropriate response to the worst drought in decades.

“We need to prevent a rise in domestic food prices, we need to preserve the number of cattle and build up reserves for the next year,” he said during a televised cabinet meeting, according to The Associated Press. “As the saying goes: reserves don’t make your pocket heavy.”

Russia’s agricultural output, once the victim of chronic shortages during the Soviet era because of unwieldy bureaucracy and failed farm policies, had grown as the country privatized old collective farms and gained force as a food exporter.

But this summer’s persistent drought, accompanied by weeks of record heat, has depleted fish stocks in its rivers and filled the air around Moscow with haze and smoke from peat bog fires, and left the rich soils of country’s Black Earth growing region parched.

Russia’s Grain Union reduced its forecast for this year’s harvest by 15 percent compared with last year’s crop, and more than a dozen regions of the country have declared states of emergency. Mr. Putin said Thursday that the grain reserves would be distributed to people in the hardest-hit areas.

“As of today, Russia has no grain market,” Kirill Podolsky, chief executive officer of the Russian grain trader Valars Group, told Bloomberg News. “This will be a catastrophe for farmers and exporters alike.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow, and Jack Healy from New York.

This story, "Russia Bans Grain Exports After Drought Shrivels Crop," originally appeared in the New York Times.