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Some countries ban export of staple crops amid COVID-19

COVID-19 drives countries in central Asian and eastern Europe to ban export of wheat, corn and soybeans to preserve supplies.

Dan Prat |

COVID-19 drives multiple countries to ban export of wheat, corn and soybeans

A half-dozen companies, primarily in central Asia and eastern Europe, have opted to ban the export of staple food and commodity crops to preserve supplies in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Eurasian Economic Commission, which represents Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russian Economic Union, implemented a group export ban on soybeans, sunflower seeds and buckwheat on March 31. The ban also includes staple food items such as garlic, onions and turnips, according to a translation of the March 31 decree provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network.

The group export ban is set to remain in place through June 30. However, several group nations — as well as nations outside the Eurasian Economic Union, have implemented their own export bans or restrictions in response to COVID-19.

Kazakhstan banned the export of buckwheat, sugar, potatoes, onions, garlic and sunflower products on March 27, and has set limits for exports of wheat flour, cabbages and several root vegetables, citing a need to stabilize local markets for these products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ukraine has also set limits on wheat exports through the end of the 2019-20 marketing year in an addendum that does not distinguish between grain used for human and animal consumption, as has Russia, which has capped exports of wheat, rye, barley and corn beginning April 1 and ending June 30. Russia has also cited a need to “ensure domestic agricultural security,” according to the USDA.

Algeria also announced a ban on the export of “strategic products,” including flour, sugar, milk and other food products, beginning in late March and remaining in place through the end of the pandemic in that country.

Later, on April 9, Romania followed suit by banning exports of grains, oilseeds and other products to destinations outside the European Union. Although Romania cited COVID-19 as the reason for the ban, which covers wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice, soybeans, sugars and other staple products, USDA’s Bucharest post noted that Romanian farmers are also struggling with a growing drought situation.

Elsewhere, several nations have taken a different approach to shoring up food supplies by reducing or eliminating tariffs to promote imports. Costa Rica, for example, has established a temporary tariff rate for rice imported in June and July in response to a 52% increase in rice consumption. Qatar and El Salvador have also suspended tariffs on commodity crops.

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