Kazakh Grain Exports Fall Short

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan will fall short of its planned 1 million tons of grain exports in November because of a shortage of rail wagons and extra charges on cargoes transiting Ukraine, senior government officials said Thursday.

The Kazakh government has pledged assistance to its exporters and is seeking alternative export routes as it tries to find a swift resolution to the problem.

"We planned to export about 1 million tons of grain in November. Unfortunately, this plan was lowered due to a shortage of rail wagons and the fact we are not shipping across Ukrainian territory," Deputy Agriculture Minister Akylbek Kurishbayev said.

"We think we will ship a maximum 740,000 to 750,000 tons in November, and in December we should ship a minimum 1 million tons," he told reporters during the Kazakhstan Grain Forum in Astana.

Kazakhstan plans this season to become one of the world's top five grain exporters, shipping 10 million tons from a record harvest of 20.1 million tons.

But these plans are hindered by vast distances to ports and a shortage of rail wagons.

Ukraine's state rail network has also imposed additional payments for the transit of Kazakh grain cars and all grain stored in freight cars waiting to be unloaded near Ukrainian port silos.

The country introduced prohibitive export quotas in June to replenish stocks after a drought, allowing Russia and Kazakhstan to boost shipments through its territory.

Kurishbayev said a Kazakh delegation had already left for Kiev to discuss the problem.

"I hope this issue will be solved in the near future," he said.

Addressing the forum earlier, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said his government would support grain exporters. One such plan could involve building a railway across Turkmenistan to deliver grain to Iran and beyond, he said.

"We realize that one of the most restrictive factors for our grain exports is the transport infrastructure. Here, the government's task is to help you and, of course, we will, from the point of view of traditional exports through Russia and Ukraine," Masimov told the forum.

"But we must not limit ourselves to this. We need to find new transport routes," he said.

Masimov also highlighted an alternative route to the Black Sea being constructed by the state-owned Food Contract Corporation, which has upgraded the Kazakh Caspian Sea port of Aktau and is building grain terminals in Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The corporation is also building a terminal in the Iranian port of Bandar Amirabad.