Reuters has a report on the Russian drought and its impact on global wheat prices - Wheat prices soar as Russia curbs exports.
Russia's worst drought in a century prompted one of the world's biggest wheat growers to ban grain exports for the first time in 11 years, sending already red-hot benchmark U.S. wheat prices to a fresh 23-month high.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a temporary ban on grain exports to keep inflation in check, pledging billions of roubles to the farm sector. "I think it is advisable to introduce a temporary ban on the export from Russia of grain and other agriculture products made from grain," Putin told a government meeting.
Putin signed an order banning exports of wheat, barley, rye and maize, as well as wheat and rye flour from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, the government press office said, adding it planned to ask for a similar ban from customs union partners Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Trading in September wheat WU0 on the Chicago Board of Trade went into overdrive, rising by a limit-up 60 cents to $7.85-3/4 by the close of the electronic session, a high for the contract and a 23-month peak for front-month prices.
Benchmark wheat prices in Chicago and Paris have now added 69 percent and 58 percent respectively since the start of July.
With Russia at the mercy of its worst drought since records began 130 years ago Putin pledged 10 billion roubles ($335 million) in subsidies and another 25 billion roubles in loans to the agricultural sector, adding that grain from the government intervention fund will be distributed to regions.
Last year, buoyed up by bumper harvests in 2008 and 2009, Russia exported 18.3 million tonnes of wheat, a total only exceeded by the United States and the European Union, according to International Grains Council figures.
But Russia's ambitions to take more market share have taken a dent from the drought.
"An export stop by Russia means the cards are reshuffled in the international wheat market. It would open up huge new opportunities for west European and U.S. sales. The implications would be huge," a Europe-based trader said. ...
Fear about a repeat of the 2007/08 food crisis when wheat prices topped $13 a bushel has been a major driver in the wheat rally, but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday that such concerns were not justified.
The FAO said world stocks, especially those held by major exporters, were enough to cover expected production shortfalls after two consecutive years of record crops. "External factors, including the macroeconomic environment and developments in other food markets, which were major drivers behind the surge in international prices in 2007/08, are not posing a threat so far," the FAO said.
Some market players agreed, taking on board the role of speculators in the current spike. "A (Chicago) market that gains $1 in four days is not a fundamental one," a trader said. "The pullback if it happens will be all the more severe.