Wheat Jumps as Russian Export-Tax Talk Fuels Supply Worries
(Bloomberg) -- Wheat climbed from Minneapolis to Paris after a Russian official suggested the country could raise grain-export taxes if prices surged, adding to concerns about an already tight global market.
Russia could revise the formula behind its floating grain-export tax if there is a significant increase in global prices, Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said at a government meeting Wednesday. The tax has been in place since mid-year in an effort to slow sales abroad and cool domestic food inflation. Russia also plans to set a grain-export quota again in the first half of next year, he said.
Wheat prices in Chicago reached the highest since 2012 earlier this month and Paris futures hit a record after crops around the world were hit by droughts, frost and heavy rain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday cut its outlook for global supplies more than analysts were expecting.
“In the event of a significant increase in world prices, let’s say up to $400 per ton and more, the formula for setting the floating-export duty will be revised upwards,” Patrushev said.
Prices are still well below that level, and he didn’t provide any more detail. Recent measures from Russia including the export tax and the quotas have had limited effects on total seasonal volumes. Grain exports have continued even as the floating tax more than doubled in recent months.
Still, traders are likely to be on edge, given the tightness in the market.
“Any time you have the thought of quotas and taxes being revised or talked about, it tends to stir up a little bit of fear on ‘what if’ this happens,” said Matt Ammermann, commodity risk manager at StoneX. “But then we also had a USDA report yesterday,” which cut the outlook for global wheat stockpiles and boosted the trade outlook to a record.
Milling-wheat futures in Paris ended the trading day 2.9% higher, the biggest gain since mid-August.
Wheat futures in Chicago rose 2.6% to $7.99 a bushel as of 12:08 p.m. local time. Hard red winter wheat jumped as much as 2.8% higher to $8.1575 a bushel, the highest since 2014, before slightly paring the gain. In Minneapolis, spring wheat rose for a third straight session.
The size of Russia’s next quota will be determined at the end of the year, “taking into account the revised volume harvest, as well as the rate of export in the first half of the current agricultural season,” Patrushev said.
The quota is planned from mid-February, the ministry said earlier. Russia estimates domestic demand at about 80 million tons of grains, Deputy Minister Oksana Lut said last week.
“If the largest exporter says it could make export taxes more restrictive then that’s bullish,” said Andrey Sizov, managing director at consultant SovEcon. “While global prices remain elevated and CPI remains high, that implies that it will stay on the radar of officials.”
One potential option to adjust the tax would be a reduction in the non-taxable threshold, which is currently $200 per ton of wheat, said Eduard Zernin, head of the Russian Union of Grain Exporters.
In other agriculture commodities, corn and soybeans in Chicago gained for a second straight day as traders continue to digest the latest big crop forecasts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Lean hog futures in Chicago also increased, rising as much as 1.2% after the U.S. said faster pig slaughtering will be allowed under a pilot program. Read more here.
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