WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2016 - Late last week, Russia instituted a temporary ban on U.S. corn and soybean imports after the country raised concerns about potential diseases being carried in through the crops, but the ban raised an interesting conundrum.

The U.S. doesn’t send any corn to Russia.

When asked about the level of U.S. corn exports to Russia, U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight held up his right hand to form a circle, telling Agri-Pulse those exports are “zippo,” not including some shipments of popcorn.

No one outside of the Russian government knows the exact reason why the country would block imports of something it already wasn’t importing, but there are two possible explanations: a translation error confusing popcorn with corn, or a political maneuver – possibly related to developments in the Middle East or Ukraine – in a longstanding trade battle between the U.S. and Russia.

“I think it probably has more to do with our overall relationship with Russia right now than anything else,” USGC Director of Trade Policy and Biotechnology Floyd Gaibler told Agri-Pulse Monday at the organization’s annual meeting in Sarasota, Florida. “The reality of it is that if the problems that they were noting were that serious, they would show up in other markets.”

For soybean producers, losing the Russian market temporarily won’t cripple the industry by any means, according to Jim Miller, vice chairman of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). He said it was “pretty disappointing” to have a temporary ban because it could set a precedent, but ultimately, Russia is not a very big market for U.S. soybeans.

“They’re less than 1 percent of our exports, but still it’s a concern any time we have a disruption in a market,” Miller said.

Miller said USSEC is working to “have the issue resolved in a short time and things will get back to normal,” but he didn’t expect broader ramifications from the ban.


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