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Russia bans grain exports as smog covers Moscow

media A woman covers her face with a handkerchief to protect herself from the … Reuters

Russia, the world’s third-largest wheat exporter, has banned grain exports until the end of the year following a record drought and sweltering heatwave. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the ban on Thursday, as the country struggles to contain wildfires that have so far killed 50 people.

Wheat futures shot up to two-year highs on commodities markets following Putin’s unexpected announcement, which raised concerns about global supplies.

Earlier this week, Russia cut its harvest forecast to 70-75 million tonnes, compared with 97 million tonnes in 2009. Last year, it exported 21.4 million tonnes of grain.

The severity of the drought has seen states of emergency declared in 27 regions and the spread of the wildfires forced Russia to closely monitor radiation levels.

Moscow has been cloaked in a thick could of smog and many commuters wore sanitary masks on Friday. Experts said pollution levels are well above safe levels. 

Officials said there were still 588 fires across the affected region in European Russia and that close to 250 new fires had appeared over the last 24 hours.

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