UPDATE 1-Russia suspends exports of processed grains

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MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - Russia has suspended exports of processed grains such as ready-to-eat buckwheat, rice or oat flakes from March 20 for 10 days, a letter sent by the country’s agriculture safety watchdog to its regional offices showed on Monday.

Domestic demand for ready-to-eat grains, mainly buckwheat, has risen significantly in the country as Russians worried by the coronavirus epidemic have stockpiled staples.

Russia’s traditional grain exports, including wheat, remain unaffected by the suspension. Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter.

The Rosselkhodnadzor watchdog used the traditional Russian word “krupy” in its order, which is sometimes translated as “cereals”, but two sources at the service told Reuters that it was meant only for processed grains, used mainly for porridge.

The government earlier said that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has asked the agriculture ministry and other officials to prepare proposals on whether exports of any food, essential products or medicine should be limited.

Russia, which has reported 438 cases of coronavirus so far, last week said that it could limit exports of some food products if the outbreak leads to shortages.

The proposals should be ready by March 25 and then be updated weekly, the government said in a statement.

The agriculture ministry should take into account customs export data, domestic production and available stockpiles when making its proposal, the government said.

The ministry did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Last week it said Russia had sufficient stockpiles of agriculture and food products, including grain, and no deficit was expected before the new crop arrives in summer.

Grain exports from Russia jumped within the last two weeks and domestic rouble prices rose as the rouble fell sharply against the dollar. (Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Polina Nikolskaya and Polina Devitt Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman)