Corrected: No halt in Russia heat, winter crop sowing

Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:54pm EDT
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(Corrects to insert dropped decimal point $7.10-1/4 in grain price in 17th paragraph)

By Aleksandras Budrys

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Scorching heat will keep hammering Russia for the next 10 days, a top weather official said on Tuesday, and seeding for the winter grain crops is in danger if there is no rain after that.

Russia's worst heatwave on record has stoked wildfires and parched crops in last year's No. 3 global wheat exporter, leading to a grain export ban, sending prices of wheat to two-year highs at one point and prompting the World Bank to warn against hasty restrictions on exports.

"The situation is not changing radically," Dmitry Kiktyov, deputy director of Hydrometcentre, the government weather forecasting unit, said of the heatwave that has cost 54 lives in fires and, economists said, could wipe $14 billion off economic growth.

"The temperature will change insignificantly, and there will be only local rains. They will be insufficient to cushion the current situation," he said.

The drought could slash Russia's 2010 grain output by nearly 40 percent to 60 million tonnes, and the winter wheat sowing campaign could begin to be in jeopardy if there is no rain during or right after the next 10 days.

"Our investigations show that the sowing may be delayed by some 10 days without losses. But only in case of rains," agricultural forecasting official Anna Strashnaya told Reuters.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said Russia's ban on grain exports could extend into next year, noted the drought could prevent some regions from starting the sowing campaign for the 2011 winter grain crop, which normally accounts for roughly 40 percent of the total.   Continued...