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Romania allows duty-free wheat imports
BUCHAREST , Romania will scrap import duties this week on one million tonnes of milling wheat to tackle a large grain deficit, which will be covered mainly by purchases from Russia and Kazakhstan, officials and traders said on Tuesday.
Romania expects to harvest a meagre 2.6 million tonnes of wheat in 2003 due to drought, not enough to cover domestic needs of 3.6 million.
It harvested 4.38 million tonnes in 2002, one of its lowest crops in 13 years.
"The government will approve this week duty-free imports of milling wheat. Romania's shortfall is estimated at one million tonnes," agriculture ministry spokesman Alexandru Dinca told Reuters.
The ministry said the measure aimed to prevent a steep rise in bread prices in anticipation of a poor crop due to dry weather.
Dinca said the decision on duties had also been prompted by a downward trend in world grain prices.
"Falling prices for milling wheat were also a factor behind the ministry's tax break decision," he said.
He declined to say for how long the facility would be available.
Custom duties on wheat are now at 15 percent for imports from countries in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and 25 percent for others.
Traders and millers' associations, who have repeatedly urged the government to scrap duties for wheat, welcomed the news.
The ANAMOB association of millers and bakers said importers had already contacted cereals exporters in Russia and Kazakhstan, countries with big grain surpluses.
"Central Asia-origin wheat is most likely to flood the (domestic) market," said a Bucharest-based trader. Russia's wheat exports outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) more than doubled to 4.12 million tonnes over January-May 2003 from the same period of 2002.
In January, Romania opened its strategic wheat reserves and allocated 200,000 tonnes of milling wheat to bakeries for blending with the poor quality 2002 crop.
Bread is a staple food for the country's 21.6 million population, whose monthly salaries average $130, and governments have been careful not to allow its price to climb steeply.
MGR Archive 9.7.2003
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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