Russian government proposes cutting wheat export tax

Semikarakorsk, Russia | Reuters — The Russian government has proposed cutting its floating wheat export tax from Oct. 1 and to exempt durum wheat from the levy, a senior official said on Thursday.

Russian wheat exports have been constrained by the tax, which has prevented exporters from fully benefitting from the weaker rouble and a large grain crop.

The current duty formula is set at 50 per cent of the customs price minus 5,500 roubles (C$110) per tonne but not less than 50 roubles per tonne.

The government is proposing changing that to 50 per cent of the customs price minus 6,500 roubles (C$130) per tonne but not less than 10 roubles per tonne, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Thursday in Semikarakorsk in Russia’s southern grain-growing Rostov region.

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“The (tax) easing is for 1,000 roubles,” Dvorkovich, who is in overall charge of agriculture, told reporters on Thursday.

He did not say when the proposal would be approved by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“This is broadly in line with what market had expected,” said Dmitry Rylko, the head of the IKAR agriculture consultancy.

The agriculture ministry had proposed the changes, but according to industry sources the decision was delayed due to Economy Ministry opposition.

The new tax would also exclude more expensive “hard wheat” and seeds, Dvorkovich said.

Two agriculture consultancies told Reuters the hard wheat Dvorkovich was referring to was durum, of which Russia is a small supplier, and all types of wheat seeds.

Dvorkovich did not say whether the government also planned to raise prices for the state restocking programme, which the agriculture ministry had also proposed.

Russia exported 7.7 million tonnes of grain, including six million tonnes of wheat, between July 1 and Sept. 18, according to official customs data, down 23 percent from a year earlier.

The agriculture ministry currently expects grain exports of 30 million tonnes this marketing year and a harvest of 100-101 million tonnes.

Reporting for Reuters by Darya Korsunskaya; writing by Polina Devitt.

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