Russia can start to export grain

Russia has harvested more food grain this year than in 1999 and, having already met this year's target, it can start to export, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said on Saturday. Interfax news agency quoted Gordeyev as saying that Russia's 2000 food grain harvest exceeded last year's by 12 million tonnes and some of it could be sold abroad as the country's own food needs had already been met. Gordeyev did not give export estimates or last year's harvest figures for food grain. It was not immediately clear whether Gordeyev meant food wheat or other types of food grain. Prime-Tass agency quoted Gordeyev as giving a slightly higher figure, 12.5 million tonnes, for the amount by which this year's food grain harvest beat last year's. Agriculture Ministry officials were not available to comment on the difference in figures. Gordeyev said on Wednesday Russia's total grain harvest this year could be between 60 and 66 million tonnes, up from 54.7 million in 1999, and that Russia would be able to export two million tonnes of grain. Exports of Russian grain have been banned as one of the conditions under which Russia received food aid from the United States and the European Union last year, Reuters reports. The customs commitee has said it expected a government order to lift the ban, which has already expired