Russia’s Putin pushes for 60 million mt grain exports by end-2023

Russian president Vladimir Putin has lauded the country’s farmers and announced a push to export 60 million mt of grains by the end of 2023 amid huge domestic production outlooks and strong export figures.

The commitment came during an address to the chambers of the Russian parliament and was part of a wide-ranging two-hour speech on various challenges facing the country, including deteriorating relations with the US, the invasion of Ukraine as well as social and economic factors.

Putin, quoted in international media, said such a figure would have been “a fairytale” a few years ago, but a record-breaking wheat crop and a strong export pace through recent months have raised expectations of a huge export programme.

Alongside that, many Ukraine sources suggest Russian export figures have been boosted by the smuggling and illegal export of Ukrainian grains, seized during the invasion and subsequent occupation.

Official production figures, according to Rosstat as of January 23, showed 160 million mt of grains and oilseeds, according to bulker weight, while the total wheat crop weighed in at almost 105 million mt.

That included Crimea, which Russia invaded and seized back in 2014, but did not include data from the four occupied regions of Ukraine.   

The figures are not far off what analysts already expect for the country, with the country’s agriculture ministry forecasting 55-60 million mt of exports back in January.

The USDA currently, meanwhile, forecasts Russian wheat exports of 43.5 million mt, with another nine million mt of coarse grains – essentially corn and barley – already taking it close to the 60 million mt figure.

However, reliable data is hard to come by as official Russian data sources have not released customs and export data since the invasion of Ukraine began back in February 2022.

The Agricensus Export Dashboard suggests 2018 was the busiest year to date, with 52.6 million mt of cereals exported from the country, while data for 2022 suggests 24.4 million mt of cereals have been exported up to November 2022.

Line up data suggests that total grain exports have already reached 33 million mt as of mid-February, meaning the total likely exports will be around 58 million mt.  

However, much of the data is reliant upon the interpretation of shipping line-up information and is incomplete for the full 2023 period and prone to human error.

Exports will find it hard to hit the 60 million mt level, as the imposition of a 25.5 million mt export quota on all grain exports through the balance of the marketing year means that 58 million mt is likely to be the high water mark.

The Russian wheat marketing year runs from July 1 to June 30.