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ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 2 Russia is
considering sending at least several hundred thousand tonnes of
grains as part of new humanitarian aid supplies to Syria, Deputy
Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Friday.
Syria was once self-sufficient in wheat production but
continued fighting in the main grain-producing areas in its
northeastern regions and poor rainfall halved the nation's
harvest last year to 1.3 million tonnes, the lowest in 27
Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, supports
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the long-running conflict
there and has helped his government with wheat aid previously.
Dvorkovich, who is in charge of agriculture in the
government, said in an interview at the annual international
economic forum in St Petersburg that the proposal to consider
new grain supplies to Syria was made by another Russian deputy
prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin.
"It is at least several hundred thousand tonnes, quite a
large amount," Dvorkovich said.
Syrian and Russian government sources said in March that
Syria had received 50,000 tonnes of Russian wheat as
Commercial deals between Syrian buyers and Russian wheat
suppliers have been complicated since last year. Several deals
were signed but no wheat arrived under them.
Asked on Friday whether such cases could happen again,
Dvorkovich said that "we ... are ready to do supplies from our
stocks. One simply needs to agree on financial conditions."
He did not provide further detail.
The agriculture ministry was seeking government permission
to export up to 500,000 tonnes of grain from its 4 million tonne
state grain stockpile to free up storage space before the new
crop arrives, industry sources said told Reuters in March.
Asked about this proposal on Friday, Dvorkovich said the
government had not taken a formal decision on this proposal.
"From my point of view ... it would be right to do it
because there are requests from different countries, in
different parts of the world on additional supplies from Russia.
The question is only in the financial conditions," Dvorkovich
If such a decision is approved, it is possible that, to make
such supplies "financially acceptable" for state trader United
Grain Company, which operates the reserves, Russia would have to
downgrade railway tariffs or decrease port tariffs because
current grain prices are lower than the one at which the company
bought the grain, Dvorkovich added.
(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya, Gleb Stolyarov and Olesya
Astakhova; Writing by Maria Kiselyova and Polina Devitt; Editing
by Alexander Winning/Keith Weir)