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By John Helmer, Moscow

Want to throw rice at the bride and groom — Krasnodar will be glad to fill your order. For starting this January, Russia has become a net rice exporter for the first time in its history.

According to Alexander Korbut, spokesman for the Russian Grain Council, about 100,000 tonnes of short-grain rice have been shipped to Turkey. Grown in the southwestern Krasnodar region, on the verges of the Black Sea, Korbut told Fairplay: “The rice market is peculiar. Russia has just entered it, and a considerable period of time will be needed to confirm the principal consumers. The current situation on the market is favourable for Russia, but we don’t know how that will develop.”

In 2009 Russia produced one million tonnes of rice. Turkish buyers of rice are switching to Russian supplies as traditional sources in Egypt are disrupted by the political agitation in that country, and attempts by the regime in Cairo to limit rice outflows so as to hold down the price of the domestic product.

Although a ban on Russian grain exports, also grown in the southwestern region, remains in place until July, at the earliest, rice is not covered by the embargo. “Russia is becoming a major rice exporter, even though we have a huge shortfall in the overall harvest,” according to Sergei Rylko, director of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies. Last year’s rice harvest in Russia was up 16% from 2009 — one of the few grain harvests to improve as drought cut the wheat and barley harvests by 30% or more.

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