* Russian Railways halts traffic on Novorossiisk line
* Rail bed, roads to grain export terminals washed away
* Port elevators full, immediate impact on loadings unlikely
* No crop damage seen but prolonged rain could hit yields
(Recasts, adds estimate on damaged acreage, capacity of port
By Melissa Akin
MOSCOW, July 9 Floods that hit Russia's Black
Sea coast have wrought chaos on major road and rail links to its
main grain export outlet, but stocks at the port of Novorossiisk
are high and may delay any impact on exports, traders and
analysts said on Monday.
The effects were likely to be short-lived but laid bare the
infrastructure risks faced by Russia as it attempts to secure
and strengthen its status as a dominant global wheat exporter by
exploiting its vast reserves of farmland.
Russian Railways said it had halted rail traffic to the port
of Novorossiisk to repair a bridge southwest of Krymsk, the town
hardest hit when floodwaters came crashing down suddenly in the
early hours of Saturday, killing at least 171 people.
The state rail operator said the rail bed also was washed
out in places. Later in the day it said traffic had resumed
between Krymsk and Novorossiisk, but only southbound trains were
moving and passenger trains had priority.
The Russian government has an ambitious target for grain
exports to rise to 40 million tonnes a year. Russia emerged from
a catastrophic drought in the 2010/11 crop year to export a
record 28 million tonnes in the year to June 2012, IKAR analysts
said on Monday.
The biggest obstacle to export growth is infrastructure.
Novorossiisk, the main grain export port, has two terminals that
are linked to the wheat fields north of the Caucasus mountain
foothills by a single rail link and by mountain roads.
Even in good weather, rail backlogs outside the port are
On Monday, freight traffic up and down the coast was limited
largely to food and petroleum products designated for the
A trader with a Russian grain exporter said lorry traffic
was held up at a mountain crossing north of Novorossiisk and
cited estimates from grain forwarders that washed-out roads
could take around seven days to repair.
An immediate reduction in the loading of grain for export is
unlikely, however. Novorossiisk resumed full operation on Sunday
after the weather had forced a temporary halt to loadings.
Elevators at Novorossiisk's two grain terminals were full
and stopped intake of grain last week, so they can run down
their stocks to sustain current loadings, trade and port sources
"They just won't be replenished quickly," the trader said,
adding that the impact on exports would emerge once port stocks
Transport may be functioning by then.
"As per shipments, looks like everything is going to be back
to normal within the current week," Andrei Sizov, Jr., managing
director of the SovEcon agricultural consultancy, said by email.
The Novorossiisk Grain Terminal, controlled by port operator
Novorossiisk Commercial Sea Port has elevator capacity
of 120,000 tonnes.
It was not immediately clear how much current capacity was
at the nearby terminal controlled by state-owned United Grain
Co, which features a seven-storey brick elevator built in 1893.
UGC, which recently agreed to sell a stake to Russia's
largest port investor, Summa Capital, has an ambitions
investment programme to facilitate an increase in exports and
plans to build new elevators that can hold 100,000 tonnes.
No damage to Russia's grain and oilseed harvest was
expected, because the flooding passed by key arable regions.
"The Krymsk area has never been distinguished by grain or
oilseed production," said Dmitry Rylko, managing director of the
Institute for Agricultural Market Studies. "They grow vegetables
Sizov, citing trader estimates, said around 10,000-20,000
hectares sown with wheat, sunseeds and other crops were likely
to be damaged.
"It looks like the flood hasn't affected any significant
acreage," Sizov said.
Rylko added that he was considering a downgrade to his
harvest forecast because of protracted rain in Russia's south,
which began in late May and could result in decreased yields.
Farmers in Russia's south have faced a long spell of extreme
weather, starting with an unusually warm start to the winter,
during which some of the winter crop failed to go dormant, only
to be hit by a fierce cold snap that caught them with no snow
Spring brought a drought, which was relieved in late May by
the onset of rains, which have been falling for much of the past
Late last month, the Agriculture Ministry cut its forecast
for wheat production and exports in the forthcoming 2012/13 crop
season as a result of winterkill and spring drought.
For the new season, the ministry cut its wheat crop forecast
to 46 million to 49 million tonnes from 57 million expected
earlier, with the export forecast cut to 16 million to 18
million tonnes from 20 million.
A Reuters poll in late June showed Russia, Ukraine and
Kazakhstan's combined wheat crop would fall 22 percent to 78.9
million tonnes this year from 2011, with the biggest impact on
yields from winterkill and spring drought in Russia and Ukraine.
(Reporting by Melissa Akin; Editing by Veronica Brown and Jane