chapter  4
19 Pages

The Soviet Union

The third key actor in the international grain market is the Soviet Union. For decades before the First World War Russia was one of the world's leading exporters of grain, supplying not only parts of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire but also Britain with wheat and other grains. The Russian fleet dominated European trade in grain and access to Russian wheat supplies was an issue of political concern and even of conflict. The 1917 Revolution did not bring an immediate change of circumstances. For several decades grain remained crucial to Soviet trade, earning Western currency and maintaining economic links with the West. The volume of exports did not show any marked increase but the Soviet Union managed, by rationing domestic supplies, to remain a net exporter on a limited scale and as recently as the late 1960s was supplying Eastern Europe and a number of countries beyond Comecon on a regular basis. Grain exports were a source not only of revenue but also, in certain cases, of political influence. The pattern of Soviet exports and their destination is shown in Table 4, 1.