By FWi Staff

DESPITE a better harvest for Russian farmers this year, the country is expected to need even more imports than last season.

Russia had produced 52.3 million tonnes of grain by 1 October, an increase of 8.4% at the same time last year, according to the Interfax News Agency.

But although better, this is still is still well below previous harvests. In 1997 the country produced 86m tonnes of grain including 44m tonnes of wheat.

Following the bad harvest last year stocks were used up, said Gerald Mason, senior economist at the Home-Grown cereals Authority.

“Although theyve produced more, its significantly lower than their need,” he said.

But the prospect of exports to Russia might be a long way from helping UK cereal farmers.

Unfortunately Russia cant pay for its grain imports, so it will have to be in the form of aid, said Mr Mason.

“And theres no suggestion that well have any food aid to Russia this season – so far its all gone to America.”

To date, the Russian authorities have written to the USA requesting food aid, but no tender has been asked of Europe.

If Europe were to provide food aid this season, Mr Mason believes, intervention stocks would be used to fulfil such a tender.

This would be good news for British farmers so far as it would reduce high EU stocks. “But it wouldnt have any direct impact on prices,” he said.