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Cold weather in Russia poses risk to winter grains

MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A forecast plunge in temperatures in parts of Russia could pose risks to winter grains after abnormally warm weather in recent weeks reduced the snow cover protecting them, analysts said on Wednesday.

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Agweek

MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A forecast plunge in temperatures in parts of Russia could pose risks to winter grains after abnormally warm weather in recent weeks reduced the snow cover protecting them, analysts said on Wednesday.

Crops in Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters to North Africa and the Middle East, depend heavily on weather patterns. So far, the country is expected to harvest a large grain crop of more than 100 million tonnes in 2016.

"Abnormally warm weather, seen in recent weeks in the European part of Russia ... is an additional risk factor to the winter grain crop," said SovEcon, a leading agriculture consultancy. The snow cover is melting, leaving winter grains less protected from frost, it added.

According to IKAR, another Moscow-based consultancy, several wheat-producing regions in Russia's south are covered with good snow and have avoided immediate frost damage risk.

"Across the northern parts of Rostov and Volgograd regions and in the central part of the Black Earth region the situation looks less attractive: there is almost no snow and strong frosts are ahead," said Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR.

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According to state weather forecaster Hydrometcentre, the Rostov and Volgograd regions will see temperatures of minus 10 (14 Fahrenheit) during the day and minus 13 degrees Celsius (8.6 Fahrenheit) at night, on January 1.

However, the situation is far from critical as frosts are not expected to be severe and will not last long, said Igor Pavensky, deputy head of rail infrastructure operator Rusagrotrans.

"Cases like this, when a cold spell comes after sustained warmth, have already happened in previous years and they did not cause significant winterkill (of grains)," he added.

In Ukraine, Russia's peer on the grain markets, a cold snap with average temperatures as low as minus 14 degrees Celsius is also expected in late December and early January, potentially affecting weaker crops.

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