Lack of ships undermines Russian grain export

Judging from the results of the harvesting in Russia's main grain producingregions, Russia is ready to set a new record by producing the largestamount of grain in the past decade. However, it has turned out that thereis no way to get rid of excessive grain. Already low prices are continuingto decline. Export could be a way to stabilize prices and, accordingly, therevenues of agricultural companies. Yet, its has become quite clear byAugust that Russia is physically unable to export the excessive harvest of2002, although foreign buyers are ready to pay quite a high price for it,compared to that on the domestic market. A decline in domestic grain pricescould be stopped, if Russia could radically increase the volume of exportof wheat, forage and barley. Nonetheless, 5m tons of grain exported in theprevious agricultural year (from July until July) seem to be the maximumamount for Russia now, given the state of its fleet and port facilities.Thus, many kilometers-long lines of trucks carrying grain from the Rostovand Krasnodar Regions are stopped in front of the port terminals ofRussia's leading grain exporters, waiting for unloading. Waiting takesseveral days, although one of the terminals is ready to process 400 truckswith grain a day. The exporters point out that they could increase thevolume of grain reloading, but they lack ships. This deficit cannot becovered by means of chartering foreign ships, because European dry-cargoships are mostly unable to navigate in the shallow Sea of Azov. At the sametime, Russian dry-cargo ships of the "river-to-sea" type were speciallybuilt to navigate in that sea, where the depth of sea routes is between3.8m and 4.2m. The ports of Novorossiysk and Tuapse are overloaded, and therailroads in that region have been jammed for several months. Thetransportation of Russian grain via the deep-see Ukrainian ports of Odessaand Ilyechevsk is unprofitable and is hindered by various barriers causedby problems in the relations between th! e two countries, the Vremya Novosteinewspaper wrote. .

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