The crisis caused by the coronavirus is forcing Russia to empty its stockpile of grain.
Later this month it is to sell the bulk of its state reserves – up to 83 per cent – into the domestic market to help struggling farmers, flour millers and bakers.
The Russian Agriculture Ministry has also asked the government to restrict exports to seven million tonnes between now and the end of June – though Moscow is reluctant to impose curbs at present.
Russia currently has 1.8 million tonnes of grain in its stockpile – mainly stored in Siberia – though much of it is old stock having been purchased by the ministry between 2008 and 2016.
The ministry said in a statement: “In total, it is planned to send up to 1.5 million tonnes of grain to the domestic market to meet the needs of the flour and bakery industry, as well as the livestock industry.”
The ministry was coming under growing pressure to act as exports and a weak currency exchange were driving domestic prices for wheat and flour higher.
Alexander Korbut, deputy head of the Russian Grain Union, said the decision to sell the stockpile was only logical.
“The increase in sales from the stockpiles seems to be an attempt to relieve tension and, above all, to restrain the prices for flour and, accordingly, bakery products,” he told the Reuters news agency.