Russia posts record wheat exports for 2023-24, plus structural changes for importers and exporters

In the 2023/24 marketing year, Russian wheat exports surpassed 55.4 million tonnes, driven by increased harvests and competitive prices, although restrained by government-mandated floor prices and shifting dynamics among exporters

Russia set a new wheat export record in the 2023/24 marketing year, which ended on June 30, with the country increasing supplies to several countries in Asia, while the underlying structure of key Russian exporters has changed, Fastmarkets research shows.

Wheat exports from the country’s key deep-sea ports for exports reached 41.8 million tonnes, a year-on-year increase of just under 7% from 39.1 million tonnes in the previous marketing year, according to port line-up data seen by Fastmarkets.

Total export volumes, taking into consideration all export routes, exceeded 55.4 million tonnes, according to Russian analytical agency Rusagrotrans – an increase of around 24% from 44.7 million tonnes in the 2022/23 marketing year.

Exports were active from the very beginning of the 2023/24 season, with big harvests, high stocks and relatively competitive prices for Russia-origin wheat enticing buyers – unlike the previous season when prices were higher.

The export figure could have been even higher, Fastmarkets understands, but an unofficial governmental insistence on a minimum floor price limited Russian wheat’s competitiveness throughout the marketing year – especially with big state-backed tenders.

In addition, grain exports through the second half of the year were limited by an initial Russian agriculture ministry quota of 24 million tonnes, although this was subsequently expanded by 5 million tonnes.

Of the total 29 million tonnes available for export, ultimately, around 27 million tonnes actually left the country.

Structure of exporters

One of the main changes during the 2023/24 marketing year was the significant transformation of the structure and nature of the companies undertaking exports, with state-owned enterprises taking a bigger share.

Grain Gates, a company affiliated with major Russia-based state-backed trading house Demetra, took the lead in the first half of the marketing year, and consolidated that position in the second half of the season.

That came as private trader Rif – previously known as GTCS and Grain Flower in trading circles – came under pressure when the government withheld key phytosanitary documentation in a bid to enforce government policy, according to trade sources.

Such documents are vital for exports and sources have said that companies selling below the unofficial price floor often encountered problems getting documentation from the government.

Whatever the cause of the delayed access to documentation, the result, in data terms, shows that Rif – which was the leading Russian exporter for almost 10 consecutive years – lost 1.19 million tonnes of its export quota for the second half of the marketing year.

Quota allocations are typically based on how much agricultural product the company exports through the first half of the year, so reductions in the company’s activities led to a smaller presence when the quotas were set out.

Under this approach, Rif exported 7.3 million tonnes of wheat from the primary Black Sea ports in the 2023/24 marketing year, compared with the 12 million tonnes handled by the state-backed Grain Gates, and 5.5 million tonnes handled by trader Aston.

The last vessel shipped directly by Rif was reported in early May 2024, with the company not present in the export market since then, which potentially means that other exporters will have moved in to fill the gap.

Alongside that, a number of multinational companies such as Louis Dreyfus and Cofco significantly reduced their presence in the Russian market throughout the marketing year, with both seeing their export quotas cut to zero in the second half.

Structure of importers

While the two biggest importers of Russian wheat remained the same in 2023/24, big changes were seen in terms of other importing countries.

Egypt maintained its position as Russia’s main wheat customer, buying 8.2 million tonnes according to an analysis of Black Sea port line-up data – a drop of around 6% compared with the 8.7 million tonnes taken in during the 2022/23 marketing year.

But according to data from the Russian Grain Exporters Union, exports to Egypt totalled 8.6 million tonnes – a total that most likely factors in smaller coaster-sized parcels departing from the Azov Sea’s shallow water ports.

Turkey also held on to its place as the second biggest destination for Russian wheat, but imports dropped by almost 24% according to union data, with imports amounting to 7 million tonnes in the 2023/24 marketing year, down from 9.2 million tonnes in the previous season. Shipments through deep-water Black Sea ports declined by about 50% to 3.30 million tonnes, down from 6.75 million tonnes in the 2022/23 marketing year.

Wheat exports from Russia significantly increased into Asian destinations, however, with buyers there feeling more confident about buying Russia-origin wheat after a string of quality issues and in response to very attractive Russian wheat pricing at key stages of the marketing year.

Bangladesh overtook Iran to become the third biggest destination for Russian wheat in the latest marketing year, taking in 3.8 million tonnes, which was more than double the near-1.6 million tonnes reported in the previous season. Iranian wheat imports from Russia halved to 1.3 million tonnes as the country’s demand overall dropped.

Exports to Indonesia, meanwhile, increased almost tenfold to 1.6 million tonnes (from 168,200 tonnes in 2022/23), while Pakistan’s imports edged up slightly to 1.60 million tonnes (from 1.56 million tonnes) and Vietnam tripled its wheat bookings to 197,841 tonnes (up from 70,000 tonnes in the previous marketing year).

Exports also resumed to Sri Lanka (278,735 tonnes) and Malaysia (105,650 tonnes).

Wheat delivered into African destinations in general increased by 23% to 8.2 million tonnes, excluding Egypt, with shipments resuming into Morocco (318, 272 tonnes), Eritrea (58,000 tonnes), Ethiopia (32,700 tonnes).

Grains and oilseeds export data

Russia stopped publishing customs data in March 2022, shortly after undertaking its full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which means the latest publicly available official statistics are from January 2022 – just over halfway through the 2021/22 marketing year.

Fastmarkets has, therefore, used alternative data sources and its own analysis to track exports of grains and oilseeds from Russia.

Port loading and ship data – known as line-up data – was one source of information, collecting information about the destination of ships, along with mirror data from key trading partners, to track imports.

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