* Russian wheat prices have risen after smaller harvest
* Traders say grain export curbs to be considered
* Russian agriculture ministry denies it discussed curbs (Adds detail, comment)
MOSCOW, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Russia’s agriculture ministry said it held a meeting on Friday with grain exporters to discuss export volumes of grains.
Traders, including some who were at the meeting, said the ministry will consider curbing 2018/19 exports once they reach 30 million tonnes following a request from meat producing regions, but added no decision had been made about how this might be implemented.
The ministry, however, said it did not discuss curbs on grain exports at the meeting.
“Working questions about export volumes were discussed at the meeting,” the ministry said in an official comment.
Russia is one of the world’s leading grain exporters with massive sales especially of wheat to regions including the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Chicago wheat rose sharply after the news, as the United States and the European Union would be among countries to gain from any eventual curbs.
Russian wheat prices have been rising after a poor harvest this summer. Russia’s wheat crop is forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fall to about 68 million tonnes from around 85 million tonnes last year.
Russia’s agriculture ministry said on Friday it forecasts Russian wheat exports at 35 million tonnes in the current marketing year.
Despite the smaller crop, Russian exports have been running at a brisk level with huge volumes sold to major importers recently including Egypt.
Russia rocked world export markets in 2010 with a ban on grain exports following a poor crop.
Traders said pressure for some form of grain export restraint has been coming from Russian livestock farmers complaining about rising costs of animal feed.
“It looks like we could be seeing the very initial part of the process to hold back Russian wheat exports following the poor crop this summer and high prices,” one European trader said.
“Just by making export volumes a theme, even informally will have an impact on exporters. I think sales will be a tick less aggressive, instead of freedom to sell as you like traders will have a background worry that the government could step in again.”
Another trader added: “The question is whether there will be a slowdown in Russian exports. France and the United States would be the countries to gain if exports do slow down.” (Reporting by Polina Devitt, Polina Ivanova and Michael Hogan, Writing by Nigel Hunt, Editing by Veronica Brown and David Evans)