China lifts restrictions on imports of Russian wheat, barley

Moscow has been attempting for years to expand cereal trade with China. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - China will allow imports of wheat and barley from all regions of Russia, the Russian state agricultural watchdog said on Friday (Feb 4), a new grain export success for Russia that could lead to greater competition for other suppliers like France.

The move, announced as part of agreements signed during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Beijing, means China will no longer restrict trade in the cereals to certain parts of Russia, raising the prospect of Russia being able to send large vessels through the key Black Sea export route.

Moscow has been attempting for years to expand cereal trade with China, and Swiss-based trader Solaris, a major exporter of Russian wheat, said in December it expected China soon to become a big buyer of Russian wheat.

Russia is the world's biggest wheat-exporting country while China has emerged as a major wheat importer, bringing in record volumes last year.

"This is certainly good news for Russian wheat which could now get a bigger hold on the Chinese market, which is growing so much," a European trader said.

"It looks like bad news for the EU, Australia and Canada who are now the big wheat sellers to China."

China has become a key outlet for French wheat in the past two years and its importance has grown this year as the European Union's top wheat supplier has lost market share in Algeria.

Traders also said it was a negative development for efforts by the United States to sell more wheat to China.

Russia has gained a foothold in the Algerian and Saudi markets after those countries changed their import tender terms.

China had previously restricted imports of Russian grain due to phytosanitary concerns.

Next year, the two countries plan to reach a deal that will allow Russia to export peas to China, the Russian agricultural watchdog added in a statement.

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