MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russia temporarily has banned grain exports to a trading bloc of former Soviet countries until June 30, but a senior government official said it would keep providing special exports licenses to traders within its current quota, Reuters reported.

Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter with Egypt and Turkey among the main buyers. It competes mainly with the European Union and Ukraine.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on March 14 signed an order banning the export of wheat, rye, barley and maize exports to neighboring Eurasian Economic Union states until June 30 and white and raw sugar until Aug. 31.

Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko said, however, the export of grain within the quota under individual licenses would continue.

Moscow last week voiced concern about the quick pace of its grain exports to neighboring ex-Soviet countries with which it shares customs-free zones under the Eurasian Economic Union. Supplies to the union are not subject to Russia’s grain export quotas and current taxes.

The measures were adopted “to protect the domestic food market in the face of external constraints,” the government said. Russia also has faced severe global economic sanctions as a result of its invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

Russian wheat exports are down by 45% since the start of the current July-June marketing season because of a smaller crop, grain export taxes and the export quota set at 11 million tonnes of grain, including 8 million tonnes of wheat, for Feb. 15 to June 30.

The country still has 6 million to 6.5 million tonnes of wheat to export until June 30, according to the IKAR agriculture consultancy.