Russia's online grain export quota was running out fast on Saturday as big traders rushed to get customs documents for future shipments, analysts said, adding that supplies from the world's biggest wheat exporter would continue nevertheless.
Russia set a quota for grain exports of 7 million tonnes for April through June following the outbreak of the virus. Russia's online calculator showed that as of Saturday only 873,179 tonnes remained available for export based on the quota.
Analysts said the speed at which the quota was being snapped up - almost 2 million tonnes in 24 hours - showed these were not real export orders but a consequence of getting the necessary paperwork in place to prepare for exports later.
"To understand this situation one has to know how the Russian customs work," said Dmitry Rylko, the head of the IKAR agriculture consultancy.
"The dynamic, which we observe in the quota now, is caused by traders rushing to get so-called semi-complete declarations at customs for their supplies planned for May or June - all to make sure that they have a place in this quota."
"These semi-complete declarations are already counted by the quota and are going to be transformed into final customs documents for exports, when these traders ship the grain in coming months," Rylko said.
In reality, Russia's April grain exports are likely to total little more than 4 million tonnes, leaving almost 3 million tonnes for exports in May and June even though the quota is formally exhausted, he said.
It remains unclear how the agriculture ministry will respond. It has said that Russia will suspend grain exports until July 1 once its export quota has been exhausted. It expected this to happen in mid-May. (Full Story)
The ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Russia has exported 3.2 million tonnes of grain so far in April, SovEcon, another consultancy, said, citing port data. That's far less than the 6.1 million tonnes the online quota calculator shows as declared for export.
"Such a big difference could be explained by reflection in the customs' April data of March exports and traders getting declarations in advance, while actual shipments will be conducted later," SovEcon said, adding that traders would rush to get declarations as the official quota neared depletion.
"It implies that actual exports will continue after the quota runs out. Some errors like double counting of declarations also could contribute to high numbers," it said.
The Russian Union of Grain Exporters believes there is no risk to Russian exporters being able to fulfil their contracts, its head, Eduard Zernin told Reuters.