MOSCOW (Commodity Online) : World wheat prices continued to climb as drought stricken Russia reported a further decline in yields from its grain harvest while import orders are on the rise.

Russia's agriculture ministry said the country had harvested 40.3m tonnes of grain by bunker weight as of August 19, 38% less than a year ago. Bunker weight is typically about 7-8% higher than the clean weight used.

The average yield fell to 2.08 tonnes per hectare, showing a marginal decline on data even from data reported up to August 18, and down 23% on the result a year before.

At 19.3m hectares, Russian farmers have harvested nearly half of the sown area, although many crops are expected to be abandoned after the country's worst drought on record, which is still seeing only sporadic relief in a period when autumn planting unusually begins in earnest.

Russia, the world's third biggest wheat exporter last year, will have to import millions of tonnes of grain for the first time in more than 10 years after its worst drought in more than a century, analysts said last week.

Analysts estimate Russia may have to ship in 1.5 million-2.2 million tonnes while a report said Russia could import at least 5 million tonnes of grain this year.

Showers gave farms, at best, 0.6 inches of rain at the weekend, Meteorlogix said, adding that rain would remain sporadic for the rest of the week.

Analysts said dry weather remains a concern in Russia as they remain dry for this week, although half of the wheat growing area is forecasted to receive rain in extended six-to-10 day maps.

Prices weakened a week ago on forecasts that Russia's drought was about to break, raising prospects for autumn grain sowings, which the government expects to fall by one-third because of the poor soil conditions.

They said prices had extra boosts from import deals. Tunisia bought 50,000 tonnes of milling wheat from France at $313.74 a tonne, including freight, and 50,000 tonnes of feed barley, at $282.14 a tonne, also including transport costs.

Jordan bought 100,000 tonnes of German wheat at $337 a tonne.

Indeed, poor harvesting conditions in Europe are, in raising the prospects of milling wheat crops being downgraded to feed, seen by many analysts as likely to improve premiums for food grain over feed supplies.