* Says 1.2 mln sown hectares can be "written off"
* Grain imports seen at 1.5 mln T by the end of the season
By Melissa Akin
MOSCOW, Jan 16 Weather conditions have been
difficult for Russia's winter grain crop due to dry conditions
during sowing and to cold snaps in some regions in December, the
head of Russia's Grain Union said on Wednesday.
The conditions described by Grain Union head Arkady
Zlochevsky are broadly similar to those last winter, which
preceded a fall in Russia's gross grain harvest to just over 70
million tonnes in 2012 from 94 million tonnes in 2011, though
Zlochevsky cautioned it was too early to estimate the damage.
"Of over 15 million hectares sown (to winter grains), about
1.2 million can be written off because of dry weather
conditions. They just did not sprout," he told a news
conference. "They will be resown to spring grain."
He added, "How will they overwinter from the point of view of
the December cold snaps in several regions? It is too early to
say, but it does add risks. More than a million hectares were
without snow cover, and in low lying areas the temperature was
minus 12 or 13 degrees, even minus 15 (Celsius)."
The conditions could lead to a drop in yields or to
winterkill, he said. "We'll be able to see in the spring."
RUSSIA TO IMPORT GRAINS
Analysts say Russia is poised to import grain to make up for
volumes exported in the first half of the July 2012 to June 2013
Zlochevsky said Russia at the moment did not require imports
and that they would probably total 1.5 million tonnes by the end
of the season, the low end of his forecast range.
"Worries about a deficit are unfounded. Prices are above
world prices, and the market is clearly overheated. This has
brought exports to a grinding halt," Zlochevsky told reporters.
"Importing is in some kind of frozen state, even though
economics allow it."
He said corn exports had fallen off along with the decline in
wheat exports, which amounted to 9.77 million tonnes for the
first six months of the 2012/13 marketing year.
He said Russia would end the marketing year with 10 million
to 11 million tonnes of stocks, in line with food security
guidelines set by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation.
(editing by Jane Baird)