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6 Jun, 2009 05:14

Wheat from chaff – first World Grain Forum opens in St. Petersburg

The financial crisis will loom large at the first World Grain Forum opening in St. Petersburg, Saturday. Participants from 40 countries are gathering to discuss how to ensure food security amid the crisis.

Russia is the world's fourth-largest grain exporter and with its harvest increasing, the country's southern grain ports have become extra busy, working at full capacity.

Sergey Galushko is a truck driver. He has been delivering grain to the ports for years.

“This year I had my hands full. I worked all winter which has never happened before. And it looks like the amount of work is increasing day by day,” Sergey says.

Russia consumes about 70 million tons of grain a year and the rest goes abroad. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are among Russia's biggest customers.

This year, exports are expected to increase by over 20 percent. But the quality of grain is improving as well. So, the target markets are also expected to change.

Experts say the extra grain will find buyers. But if the harvests increase, Russia might find it difficult to export grain.

“If this year we harvest a hundred million tons – which I think is unlikely – we will face transportation and storage shortages. Hence the prices of those services will increase, and the expenses for farmers will increase, too,” an expert in the field, Andrey Sizov, told RT.

Increased production is a double-edged sword. The more grain Russia pumps onto the international market, the more depressed the price, and so farmers could lose out in a bumper harvest.

“We are doing everything to make sure our grain is of the best quality so that prices stay high. We are also managing to increase our harvest by using new fertilizers. We only sell grain for export, so we are highly dependent on world prices,” said Aleksandr Kvashin, a grain holding general director.

The record harvest means everyone, from the farmer to the stevedore, is working harder, making sure nothing is wasted.