March 25, 2020 / 5:10 PM / 8 days ago

RPT-UPDATE 2-Russia's vegoil union seeks sunseeds export limits for 6 months

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By Polina Devitt and Olga Popova

MOSCOW, March 25 (Reuters) - Russia’s vegetable oil union has asked the agriculture ministry to restrict sunflower seed exports for six months from April 1 following a surge in domestic prices due to a fall in the rouble currency, the head of the union said on Wednesday.

Russia is the world’s second largest producer of sunflower seeds after Ukraine. Turkey is its main buyer.

Mikhail Maltsev told Reuters the union, a non-government lobby group of vegetable oil producers, did not know if the ministry had agreed to the proposal.

The ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Amid the spread of the coronavirus, the Russian government asked the agriculture ministry earlier this week to prepare proposals on whether exports of any food, essential products or medicine should be limited. Kazakhstan suspended exports of sunseeds and some other food staples on Tuesday.

The union has also asked the ministry to tell Russia’s agri safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, to impose temporary restrictions on sunseed exports from March 24 and until April 1, Maltsev said, adding he was not aware if there had been any decision by the ministry on this proposal either.

Rosselkhoznadzor reports to the agriculture ministry. It is in charge of issuing phytosanitary certificates to traders. Each export supply needs such certificate to leave the country.

Russia has a history of slowing down issuance of these export certificates in times of rouble volatility or concerns about whether there is enough product for domestic consumption.

Andrey Sizov, the head of SovEcon, one of the leading agriculture consultancies in Moscow, said on Wednesday two traders were reporting difficulties in obtaining the certificates for sunseeds and rapeseed within the usual time period.

The problem is present in several Russia’s regions, including southern regions, he said.

“There are no official restrictions, but they were basically told not to expect the certificates this week,” Sizov said.

However, one of the key exporters got a certificate for sunseeds in one of southern regions today, Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, another agriculture consultancy in Moscow, said.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, but as of today, the certificates are being issued,” he said.

There are no official restrictions on exports of sunseeds, soybeans or rapeseed, Rosselkhoznadzor spokeswoman Yulia Melano told Reuters.

“If there are any single difficulties, it must be related to the issues of these particular supplies, not to exports as a whole,” she added. (Reporting by Olga Popova and Polina Devitt; Writing by Polina Devitt; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)

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