Russia temporarily bans grain exports to ex-Soviet countries

FILE PHOTO: A combine harvests wheat in a field in Stavropol Region

(Reuters) -Russia on Monday temporarily banned grain exports to ex-Soviet countries and most sugar exports, but a senior minister said it would keep on providing special export licences to traders within its current quota.

Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter with Egypt and Turkey among the main buyers. It competes mainly with the European Union and Ukraine.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday signed an order banning the export of white and raw sugar until Aug. 31, and banning wheat, rye, barley and maize exports to neighbouring Eurasian Economic Union states until June 30.

Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko, however, said the export of grain within the quota under individual licences would continue to be allowed.

Moscow last week voiced concern about the quick pace of its grain exports to neighbouring ex-Soviet countries, with which it shares free customs zones under the Eurasian Economic Union. Supplies to the union are not subject to Russia's grain export quotas and current taxes.

The measures were adopted "to protect the domestic food market in the face of external constraints," the government statement said.

European wheat prices rose on Monday after Interfax news agency reported on Russia's bank on grain exports. It did not initially mention the exclusions from the ban.

The government made no mention of the export licenses in its statement either, but said that international transit of grain via the Union would be allowed.

Russian wheat exports are down by 45% since the start of the current July-June marketing season because of a smaller crop, grain export taxes, and the export quota set at 11 million tonnes of grain, including 8 million tonnes of wheat, for Feb. 15-June 30.

The country still has 6 million to 6.5 million tonnes of wheat to export until June 30, Dmitry Rylko, head of the IKAR agriculture consultancy, said.

($1 = 0.9111 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg, Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Jan Harvey, Nick Macfie, Jane Merriman, Richard Chang and Tim Ahmann)