UPDATE 1-Ukraine's bakers ask government to limit exports of grain products

(Adds quotes, details, export data)

KIEV, March 27 (Reuters) - Ukrainian bakers and millers have asked the government to limit exports of grain and related products to prevent a surge in bread prices if the coronavirus spreads dramatically, two national associations said on Friday.

In a letter to the government, the associations said an increase in demand from exporters had already caused a rise in domestic wheat prices by up to $18 per tonne and could increase flour prices by more than $20 per tonne.

They said in such conditions bread prices could jump by 15%-20%.

Ukraine is a major exporter of grain, including wheat, and its harvest largely exceed the consumption. But the spread of the novel coronavirus has made some nations look at imposing feed export restrictions.

“We ask you to help us maintain our current level of prices and to protect consumers from the sharp rise in prices for bread and bakery products,” the associations said.

“One of the options to do this is to introduce a temporary restriction on exports of food grain products,” they added.

The associations said the restrictions may last for “the expected duration of quarantine measures.”

The Ukrainian government approved on Wednesday the declaration of an emergency across the whole country for 30 days. The country has reported 218 coronavirus cases, including 5 deaths.

Taras Vysotskiy, deputy economy minister in charge of agriculture told Reuters on Thursday that Ukraine, a major global exporter of grain and vegetable oils, did not plan to restrict its food exports.

Ukraine has increased its grain exports by more than 20% to around 45 million tonnes for the 2019/20 July-June season. It plans to export a record 52-55 million tonnes of grain this season, Vysotskiy told Reuters earlier this month.

APK-Inform agriculture consultancy this week said Ukraine, the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil, has increased its seaborne exports of the commodity by around 72.2% in the 2019-20 season. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Edmund Blair and Toby Chopra)