October 19, 2012 / 6:55 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Russian grain stocks down 26.2 pct year/year

* Wheat crop down 26.2 percent at 39.5 mln tonnes-Agmin

* Stocks at farms, processors down one third in south

* Stocks down 9-12 pct in central, northwest European Russia

* Focus on Russia after Ukraine bans exports

* Putin said export restrictions not under consideration

By Melissa Akin

MOSCOW, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Russia’s wheat crop is down more than a quarter from last year as the harvest nears completion, with the country’s main grain stocks far below 2011 levels but inventories near big population centres less depleted, government data showed on Friday.

After traders reported Ukraine would ban grain exports from Nov. 15 to combat a shortfall resulting from drought across Black Sea growing regions, eyes are on Russia to see whether it can cover domestic needs and let exports flow.

President Vladimir Putin, who approved a decision to ban grain exports during a drought in 2010, has said export restrictions are not under consideration.

Russia is due to start grain market interventions next week to stem rising domestic prices and has doubled the planned volume of sales from state stocks to 1 million tonnes to combat regional shortfalls and potential food-price inflation.

Grain stocks at Russia’s large farms and processors stood at 35.8 million tonnes on Oct. 1, the state statistics office said, down 26.2 percent from the previous year after drought savaged the crop.

The stocks were down nearly one third in the key exporting regions of Russia’s south, at 6.83 million tonnes, and down 9 to 12 percent in central European Russia and the northwest, where the country’s biggest population centres are located.

Russia exported a record 28 million tonnes last year thanks in large part to high stocks in the south, which increased after Russia banned exports in August 2010 in response to a catastrophic drought. It maintained the ban until July 2011.

Russian officials say the 2012 drought was not as devastating as that of 2010. However, overall cereal and legume yields are being reported lower than in the 2010/11 crop year, with only a few million hectares left to harvest.

With 97.6 percent of Russia’s sown area harvested on Friday, 71.8 million tonnes of cereals and legumes had been threshed from 38.1 million hectares, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Figures were by bunker weight, used to measure the crop in the course of the harvest. It is normally 5-7 percent higher than the clean weight obtained after the grain is cleaned and dried, but the difference may be less in hot, dry years.

Yields were down to 1.88 tonnes per hectare, from 2.31 tonnes per hectare a year earlier. In 2010, yields were 1.89 tonnes per hectare.

Russia reaped 39.5 million tonnes of wheat by Oct. 19 with the wheat harvest 99 percent complete, a 32 percent decline in the harvest from the previous year.

Yields were down to 1.86 tonnes per hectare from 2.39 tonnes in the previous season.

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