Russian wheat exports in March are holding at a near-normal pace despite the war raging in Ukraine, but that may not last as few new deals are being completed.
Russia could export more than 2 million tons of the grain in March, according to analysts at IKAR and Sovecon. But while that means importers are continuing to get shipments from one of the world’s biggest exporters for now, the picture may be very different in subsequent months.
“There are new contracts, but they are negligible compared to previous seasons,” head of the Russian Union of Grain Exporters, Eduard Zernin, said by text message. “The operational risks associated with the delivery and payment of grain are quite high.”
SovEcon sees Russia’s wheat exports at 2.2 million tons this month, slightly above its three-year average for March of 2.17 million tons, while IKAR also sees exports at more than 2 million tons.
“Grain exports are mostly moving pretty smoothly from Russian Black Sea ports,” IKAR General Director Dmitry Rylko said from Moscow. He expects exports “slightly below” normal volumes this month, as Kavkaz and other Azov sea ports are closed, while flows from ports in the Baltic Sea region toward Europe are effectively choked off for now. Exports to Turkey are a combination of new and old contracts, while for Egypt, it is mostly old contracts, Rylko said.
Russia’s invasion cut off most Ukrainian shipments, disrupting global trade flows and sending grains and food prices spiking. Ukraine’s ports have been shut since Russia’s invasion, and buyers are looking further west along the Black Sea to Romania and Bulgaria for supplies. India is in final talks to begin wheat exports to Egypt, the biggest importer, while negotiations are also going on with countries such as China and Turkey.
Wheat prices climbed to an all-time record in Chicago earlier this month, while Russian domestic prices are also spiking after the ruble collapsed. Ukraine can export about 300,000 to 400,000 tons of crops monthly in the current situation, 8-10 times less than when it can export through seaports, according to UkrAgroConsult. Russia has already exported more than a million tons so far this month, according to ProZerno.
While Bunge Ltd., the world’s biggest oilseed trader and a top crop shipper, suspended new export business with Russia, other international traders are continuing to export. Viterra said it would operate its businesses in Russia in compliance with all existing sanctions, while Cargill Inc. said it would scale back its business but its “essential” food and feed facilities in the country would still function.