MOSCOW (B)--Russia's Federal Weather Center has revised upward this year's grain harvest forecast, increasing it to 71 million to 75 million tonnes in pure weight, up from the earlier 68 million to 72 million-tonne estimate and 65.4 million tonnes harvested in 2000. The center increased forecasts of almost all grains except corn, which due to drought conditions in the south of European Russia, was revised down to 1.3 million to 1.45 million tonnes from the earlier 1.6 million to 1.7 million-tonne estimate and 1.5 million tonnes harvested last year.

"The conditions in July were favorable for the development of grains in Siberia and Urals. The hot weather in European Russia was good for harvesting and did not affect grains except corn, which is still developing and the starting drought is very bad for it," an official with the center told BridgeNews.

According to the internal report, prepared by the center for the government and obtained by BridgeNews, the higher grain harvest is expected in all regions this year.

The highest increase on the year, however, is expected in the south of European Russia, where farmers are expected to harvest 20.5 million to 21 million tonnes of grain, up from 17.35 million last year and 15.28 million harvested on the average in 1996 to 2000.

Due to good weather conditions, the center increased the grain forecast in almost all regions. The highest increase from the previous forecast is in Siberia, where the center expects the harvest at 12.3 million to 13.3 million tonnes, up from the earlier forecasted 11.7 million to 12.6 million.

The higher harvest is expected due to the higher yields and a 3.7% annual increase in the planted area to 47.6 million.

The wheat harvest is expected to total 41.0 million to 44.5 million tonnes, up from earlier forecast 38.5 million to 42.5 million tonnes and 34.48 million harvested in 2000.

The center increased the spring wheat output forecast to 19 million to 21 million tonnes from 17.5 million to 19.5 million, while the winter wheat forecast was raised slightly to 22 million to 23.5 million tonnes from 21 million to 23 million.

The spring barley output is expected now at 14 million to 16 million tonnes, up from the earlier 13 million to 15 million-tonne estimate and 12.31 million harvested in 2000.

The forecast of the buckwheat harvest remained unchanged at 750,000 to 900,000 tonnes, down from 990,000 tonnes in 2000. The fall is due to a fall in the planted area.

Other grains and leguminous account for the remaining part of the harvest, which is relatively small.

Farmers will face difficulties in taking in the abundant harvest due to a considerable lack of grain harvesters and other equipment and analysts say the losses might be large because of this.

The higher grain output will, however, allow Russia to boost exports of grain from the 2001 harvest and lower imports in the 2001 to 2002 marketing year (July to June). Traders expect an increase in milling wheat exports to its traditional markets in Caucasus and Central Asia and feed wheat and barley to Middle East and Mediterranean countries.

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