MOSCOW (B)--No damage to Russian winter grain crops has been reported so far, the Federal Weather Center said Feb. 3.

Crops were unaffected by low temperatures in January due to a thick snow blanket and the condition of crops remains the best for the last five years, an official with the center said.

"There were very low temperatures in the last 10 days of January of -25 to -28 degrees Celsius (-13 to -18 degrees Fahrenheit) in central Russia and -30 to -35 degrees (-22 to -31 Fahrenheit) in the northwest. But there was a thick snow blanket which saved the crops from the cold," the official told Bridge News.

Some minor damage may have taken place in the Volgograd and Saratov regions (Middle Volga) only, where snow depth was less than 10 centimeters (four inches) and the soil temperature fell to -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), which was critical for the crops.

"Despite the fears, we have not noticed any significant damage there," the official said.

She said major losses might arise from the premature development of crops in Volga-Vyatka, Ural and north of central Russia.

By mid-January, crops in good or adequate condition accounted from 94% of the 13.95-million-hectare (34.5-million-acre) Russian winter grain planted area, the best performance in the last five years.

The government is targeting a 70 million to 75 million tonne grain harvest this year, which will be sufficient for domestic requirements. In 1999, Russia's harvest was 54.66 million tonnes, up 14.2% on the year, but 3 8.2% below the 1997 harvest.

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