UPDATE 1-Kazakhstan suspends exports of food staples

(Adds exports of flour, other items also suspended, trade minister comment)

NUR-SULTAN, March 24 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan has suspended exports of wheat flour, buckwheat, sugar, sunflower oil, and some vegetables until at least April 15 to ensure their steady supply during the coronavirus emergency, the government said on Tuesday.

The Central Asian nation this month declared a state of emergency until April 15 over the coronavirus outbreak. Kazakhstan has confirmed 67 cases of the disease so far and has locked down its two biggest cities.

The Agriculture Ministry, which also announced the suspension of imports on Tuesday, cited a draft document which only listed buckwheat, sugar and some vegetables among the banned items.

But trade minister Bakhyt Sultanov then wrote on Facebook that the temporary ban also applied to wheat flour, which many of Kazakhstan’s neighbours buy from it, sunflower seeds and oil as well as some more vegetables.

“It is crucial that we ensure uninterrupted supply on the domestic market,” Sultanov said. (Reporting by Tamara Vaall Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams and Giles Elgood)