Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

World Cup Fans May Dent Russia's Record-Breaking Wheat Season

  • Rostov-on-Don handles about a quarter of outgoing cargoes
  • Government expected to limit vehicle and ship traffic

The World Cup risks putting a dent into Russia’s best-ever season for wheat exports as an influx of soccer fans may slow shipments from one of the country’s major grains ports.

Rostov-on-Don will host five soccer games from June 17 to July 2, raising concerns that shipments will slow due to security measures and rerouting of road traffic. The Don River grain terminals, owned by commodity giants including Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd., handle about a quarter of Russia’s outgoing grain cargoes, according to shipping broker Glogos Project.

Russia is exporting more wheat than any other country in 25 years, and is set to cap another record after bumper harvests. Given the high pace of exports, SovEcon last week raised its estimate for total grain shipments for the season ending June. Exports typically tail off toward the end of the season, which will mitigate any slowdown due to the games, said Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at consultant SovEcon in Moscow.

Surging Exports

Russian wheat shipments abroad this season will double from a decade ago

Source: USDA

Figure for 2017-18 season is a forecast

“It’s not yet clear what specific restrictions will take place,” Sizov said. “It’s clear this background will make exporters more careful making sales for shipment around that time.”

The city government plans to limit automobile traffic in Rostov, according to state news service Tass. Authorities also plan to ban ship navigation in some areas of the Don River near the city during the five days of the games, the Federal Agency of Sea and River Transport said.

Officials may divert traffic from a bridge near the Rostov Arena, where “substantial” amounts of grain cross the river en route to the port, according to Semyon Chudakov, executive director at the St. Petersburg-based Glogos Project.

“There’s concern that the total number of vehicles in the area will increase due to an influx of tourists,” Chudakov said. “We will surely see traffic jams of many kilometers on detour roads and that will no doubt cause some delays for grain trucks.”

The Don River flows into the Azov Sea, which is connected to the Black Sea through a strait.

Some commodity companies may be reluctant to reroute their cargoes to ports they don’t own due to potentially different terms of service, according to SovEcon.

Cargill, which owns a stake in a Black Sea port, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Bunge didn’t return messages.

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