* Russia strengthens grain export control in ports
* Watchdog cites complaints from Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt
* Move coincides with concerns about possible export curbs (Writes through to add traders’ point of view)
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Russia’s food safety watchdog has beefed up quality controls on grain exports due to complaints from major buyers and the lower quality of the crop, it said on Friday, adding that the more stringent checks were not aimed at limiting grain exports.
Traders have been watching for any changes to regulations because they were used in the past to place informal curbs on exports. Some traders said the new controls were excessive and could cause delivery disruptions on signed contracts.
“I knew it was going to be bad, I didn’t know it was going to be bad so soon,” said an exporter whose cargo has already missed a scheduled date of leaving a Russian port as it is yet to obtain a phytosanitary certificate due to the tougher checks.
Traders had previously said Russia could consider restricting exports once they reach 30 million tonnes of grain this season which started on July 1. The country has exported 9.8 million tonnes of grain so far.
Officials have repeatedly said there was no need to curb exports now, but traders are still wary the authorities could introduce the same kind of informal restrictions imposed several year ago when exporters struggled to obtain export certificates.
Russian watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said on Friday the new, tougher checks were prompted by a rise in complaints in the past three months from Vietnam, Indonesia and Egypt, which are all major Russian grain buyers.
Vietnam complained about “the repeated interceptions of the plant quarantine pest of Vietnam (Cirsium arvense).” It said the “the situation becomes more serious recently,” according to its statement, published on Rosselkhoznadzor’s website. www.fsvps.ru
The quality of Russian wheat is lower this year than last year due to unfavourable weather during harvesting. The watchdog said its monitoring had been made harder by cargoes loading ship-to-ship at sea rather than at a port.
The Russian watchdog, in a letter from one of its regional offices, said checks lasting between five and 10 days were needed for shipments bound for Ecuador, Vietnam, Sudan, Egypt, Venezuela and Israel.
But the watchdog, which said the controls were not new and were not aimed at limiting exports, said more inspectors were being sent to the main Black Sea port of Novorossiisk this week to ensure shipments were checked, and to prevent complaints from buyers. (Reporting by Polina Devitt Editing by David Evans and Edmund Blair)