All indications point to another disappointing grain harvest in the USSR next year, US Department of Agriculture experts say. This knowledge seems to have dimnished the likelihood that Ronald Reagan will soon end the grain embargo imposed against the Soviets by Jimmy Carter a year ago.
Another poor harvest would mean that, for seven of the last 10 years, the Russians have fallen well below their 200 million-ton yearly wheat target. And it would make the Soviet Union more vulnerable than ever to continued restrictions on purchases of US grain.
Even American farmers bitterly opposed to embargoes in general -- and to this embargo in particular -- accept that Mr. Reagan, after he becomes President Jan. 20, may need to continue the present embargo for foreign policy reasons.
Latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports conclude that President Carter's grain embargo caused a 6 million-ton reduction of grain availability during the Soviets' "tight" period of the first six months of last year. The embargo, according to a USDA international trade analyst, "denied the Soviets about 10 percent of their feed-grain requirements." It was effective, he added, because "the main purpose was to impact on the Soviets' vulnerable livestock sector."
With unfavorable weather conditions foreseen in the USSR, and because the Soviet winter wheat planting was more than 7 million acres short of target, the USDA expects the embargo to have an even greater impact over the coming six months.
"The pressures on the Soviets are building," reports this trade analyst, "so that the Soviets will have to continue to rely on the world market for grain, continue to pay premium prices, continue to use smaller vessels, which cause congestion in their ports -- with impacts on their whole economic system, as seen in the latest signs of meat shortages. . . ."