MOSCOW (B)--Russia's agricultural ministry has reviewed upward its forecast of this year's grain harvest to 80 million tonnes in bunker weight, up from the earlier expected 75 million, an official with the ministry's farming department said May 11.

He said the more favorable forecast was due to the good condition of winter grains and good weather for planting spring crops.

The expected 80 million in bunker weight means about 73.6 million tonnes in pure weight, up from 54.6 million harvested in 1999.

"The forecast has been revised upward due to good condition of winter crops and favorable weather conditions for planting spring grains," the official told BridgeNews.

It is expected that winter crops were damaged on about 1 million hectares (2.471 million acres) or 7% of the planted area, compared with 12.5% damaged on the average during the previous five years.

"Farmers are using more fertilizers than in previous years, which will lead to a higher yield," the official said.

The current weather is also good for planting spring grains. The soil moisture content is sufficient everywhere, while in 1998 and 1999 drought conditions resulted in the significant damage of crops.

The ministry also hopes the funds allocated by Kazakhstan for its anti-locust campaign would be sufficient and there would be no invasion of the pest from North Kazakhstan.

The ministry plans to increase annual grain output to 90 to 95 million tonnes by 2005.

If the ministry's estimates prove right, Russia will be able to stop massive grain imports.

According to Russia's largest commercial grain trader, OGO, Russia imported 892,200 tonnes of wheat, up 1,346% on the year.

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