Record-breaking Russian grain exports expected in 2023

Record-breaking Russian grain exports expected in 2023
/ bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews June 5, 2023

Russian grain exports are expected to reach record levels in the current 2022-2023 agricultural season, with estimates by various domestic agencies and institutions ranging from 55.5mn to 59.3mn tonnes, Kommersant daily reported.

Wheat exports are anticipated to account for the biggest grain export figure, with an estimated 44.5mn to 48.2mn tonnes to be shipped abroad. The share of Russian wheat in the global market is predicted to reach 13%, up from 11.3% in the previous season, according to the forecasts compiled by Kommersant

Despite a challenging start to the season due to the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions, Russian exporters have managed to overcome difficulties and increase their turnover, resulting in higher revenues, the analysts surveyed by the daily note.

This is in line with the previous reports that Russia has brought in a new all-time high record harvest of 153mn-155mn tonnes of grain and is set to export 55-60mn tonnes by the end of the current agricultural year. (chart)

This is the second year in a row that Russia has set a new record grain harvest, as it brought in another record 153.8mn tonnes in 2022, smashing the previous all-time high – for both modern and Soviet times – of 135.4mn tonnes.

The government has poured money into agriculture as it sought to become entirely autonomous in food production, as part of Putin’s efforts to sanction-proof the country ahead of a showdown with the West over Ukraine.

In the next 2023-2023 season, Russia is anticipated to maintain its position as the world's largest wheat exporter, with export potential estimated to be around 57mn tonnes of grain, out of which wheat accounts for 43.7mn tonnes. 

Lower export duties, high demand from key importers, and the launch of a new grain terminal in the Leningrad Region are factors that may contribute to increased exports, according to Kommersant. However, competition from European suppliers, economic difficulties in Egypt, and falling grain prices pose potential challenges for Russian exporters.

At the same time, the departure of three international traders, Viterra, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, from the Russian grain export market is expected to create opportunities for local players. This shift is likely to benefit companies such as Grain Gates, which may surpass TD Rif as the leading exporter. 

Russian grain traders and exporters aim to expand the geography of direct grain supplies and reduce reliance on intermediaries represented by international traders. They still face challenges such as financial logistics, ship chartering and the refusal of banks to provide guarantees.

As followed by bne IntelliNews, agro and grain asset deals have been in focus as large Russian market players reshape the domestic market amid Western sanctions as a result of the military invasion of Ukraine.

In February 2022 the heavily sanctioned state-controlled VTB Bank started divesting its grain assets. In the past few years VTB had been hoovering up assets in the grain export sector and now controls about a fifth of the business, becoming the largest operator of grain infrastructure in the process.

VTB divested its stake in Demetra Holding, which controls a 50% minus one share stake in UGC, the government's agency for grain reserves and interventions. The UGC told Kommersant previously that due to the difficult foreign policy situation in July and August, the group's grain exports had fallen by about 47% to 0.2mn tonnes.

Demetra's assets also include Russia's largest grain terminals: Novorossiysk Grain Terminal, a 35.5% stake in the Novorossiysk Grain Mill, a grain terminal in Taman owned on a parity basis with Glencore commodity trader, controlling stakes in railway holding Rustranscom (including Rusagrotrans, the largest grain transporter by rail) and major grain exporter Mirogroup Resources.