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CORRECTED-Brazil decree allows wheat imports from Russia

(Corrects paragraph 7 to show Brazil produced 4.3 million tonnes of wheat in 2017 versus 6.7 million tonnes in 2016, not 2.6 million versus 3.5 million)

By Marcelo Teixeira

SAO PAULO, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Brazil's government on Wednesday published a decree laying out procedures importers will have to follow to be able to buy and unload Russian wheat in Brazil, a step aimed at improving trade ties with Moscow.

The decree, which appeared in the official gazette and takes effect immediately, outlines the type of documents and information importers will have to submit to be able to bring Russian wheat to be processed in Brazil.

Russian wheat imports had not been allowed previously. The Brazilian government's move should please Russian grain traders, who have been trying to find new export markets after bumper harvests. Brazil also expects it will help it lift a Russian ban on imports of certain Brazilian meats.

"Bilateral trade must be a two-way street. If we want to sell more to Russia, we have to open our market to them," Deputy Agriculture Minister Eumar Novacki said in an interview. "If quality and price are there, why shouldn't we buy Russian wheat?"

The decision to allow Russian wheat imports comes at a moment when Brazil is increasing imports of the cereal after a poor local harvest this year.

Brazil is expected to go abroad to buy around 7.2 million tonnes of wheat this year, the largest amount in a decade. Last year, the country had already bought more than 7 million tonnes, making it one of the world's largest buyers.

Despite being a large grains producer, Brazil produced only around 4.3 million tonnes of wheat in 2017, versus 6.7 million tonnes in 2016. Its climate is more suited to grains such as soybeans and corn.

The country is currently consuming around 11.3 million tonnes per year. But it is unclear how attractive to Brazilian mills Russian wheat will be.

The mills buy most of the wheat they need from neighbor Argentina, which gets preferential zero import tax treatment as part of the South American Mercosur customs union. Other wheat shipments come from the United States and Canada.

Brazilian wheat processors favor hard wheat, with more protein content, due to the needs of its bread industry. Russia is a large producer of soft wheat, with low protein content.

The decree restricts purchases of Russian wheat to mills located close to ports to keep the product from circulating too far because the government has yet to study the risk of plant diseases to local crops.

Many mills in Brazil are already located close to ports, due to the country's long history of imports. (Additional reporting by Roberto Samora and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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