August 13, 2012


Swine fever in Russia's Krasnodar region may affect feed wheat export



Russia's Krasnodar region's African swine fever outbreak has fanned concerns over possible export limits for feed wheat, which accounts for about 5% of total grain exports.


Outbreaks were registered in seven districts of Krasnodar region, where a state of emergency was imposed this week.


"I want everybody to understand that new fever outbreaks can lead to a full ban of grain and other agriculture export... We must not allow this scenario to happen," regional governor Alexander Tkachev was quoted as saying on his government's website this week.


A spokeswoman for Tkachev said that there were no reasons for export restrictions now. "There are enough measures being taken to cope with African swine fever (ASF) now," Anna Minkova told Reuters on Friday (Aug 10).


Russia's wheat harvest may fall by 20% in the 2012-13 season to around 45.5 million tonnes, largely because of a drought that has spurred talk of export restrictions.


Russia's government said that the country had no grounds to ban grain exports but did not rule out protective export tariffs after the end of the 2012 calendar year.


Outbreaks of ASF are unlikely to serve as an excuse for a reversal of government thinking on grain export limits, as domestic prices are stable now, several market sources told Reuters.


"The possible limits can be applied only for feed wheat, which accounts for about 5% of Russia's wheat export. That is why there is no need for drama," an exporter of Russian wheat said.


Feed grain shipped from an affected area could infect other animals. Medium and large Russian pig farms are well protected against ASF, which has no cure. The virus is most common at small farms and is spread partly by wild boars. It is harmless to humans. ASF was confirmed for the first time in Russia in 2007.


The Agriculture Ministry's inspectorate is responsible for cordoning off areas affected by outbreaks but such a decision would be highly politicised. A ministry spokesman was unable to comment immediately on Friday (Aug 10).


In April the head of Russia's state consumer protection agency, Gennady Onishchenko, blamed Georgia for bringing ASF into Southern Russia. Onishchenko initiated an injunction banning wine and mineral water imports from Georgia in 2006, two years before the five-day war between two countries.


But Onishchenko has said Russia's Krasnodar region has been unable to eliminate ASF for the past three years. The new ASF outbreaks in Krasnodar region could be caused by sabotage or by flash floods, which in the early hours of July 7 killed 171 people and damaged more than 4,000 homes, mainly in Krymsk, a mountain town on the edge of the Caucasus mountains, Russian officials have said.

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