Turkey removes Russian wheat from import scheme - sources
Turkey has removed Russian wheat from an import licence scheme in an unexpected move that could disrupt Russia's shipments to its second-biggest wheat export market, according to trade sources.
New import licences issued by the Turkish government did not include Russia among accepted origins as of March 15, the sources said.
This would effectively close off the Turkish market to Russian wheat as exports from countries not included in the import scheme have to pay a prohibitive tariff of 130 percent, several sources said.
Turkish government officials were not immediately able to confirm the decision while Russia's Agriculture Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
"The new import licences do not include Russia as an origin, therefore de facto you cannot import Russian wheat," said a Turkish miller who imports wheat.
Turkish importers, including millers who benefit from import licences as part of a system that supports Turkey's large flour exports, may be able to bring in wheat that was shipped from Russia before March 15 but the status of subsequent shipments was less clear, he said.
The Turkish government had not given an explanation for the change in policy, according to several sources, some of whom said it may be connected with a previous spat between Turkey and Russia.
Russia imposed damaging trade restrictions on Turkish goods after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in November 2015, but the two countries restored ties in August.
Most of the restrictions on exports of Turkish fruit and vegetables to Russia have now been lifted, but Russia is yet to resume purchases of tomatoes and some other products from Turkey.
Russian exporters' lobby group - National Association of Agriculture Exporters - sent a letter to Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev on Thursday asking him "to take energetic measures" to resolve the matter.
A copy of the letter, obtained by Reuters, says that starting from March 15, Turkey removed Russia from a list of countries which are allowed to supply wheat, maize and vegetable oil to Turkey on a duty-free basis.
Turkey bought 1.9 million tonnes of Russian wheat in the July 2016 to January 2017 period.