KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- The Ukrainian government announced Friday that it will not limit grain exports at least for another three weeks.

Russia imposed an export ban earlier this month after severe drought hurt harvests across the region. This and Ukraine's announcement last week that it was considering imposing quotas on grain exports have helped to drive up wheat prices on world markets.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Slauta, who oversees agriculture, said Friday that no export quotas would be introduced at the moment but that the government would revisit the issue after Sept. 15.

Ukrainian traders had asked for the delay to allow them to export about 2 million tons of grain that was awaiting shipment.

The government has forecast a harvest of 42 million tons, down from 46 million tons last year, with exports to amount to 15 million to 17 million tons.

But the Agriculture Ministry said that as of Thursday, only 29.2 million tons had been harvested, which was 21 percent less than at the same time last year. Of the total harvested so far, 17.9 million tons was wheat. Ukraine also is a major producer of barley.

Slauta said quotas could be introduced if prices rose abruptly on world markets or if speculation began to distort the Ukrainian market.

"If nothing happens, let the market work freely," he said.

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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