December 5, 2011
Russia is expecting a bumper grain crop harvest next year of 100 million tonnes but a presidential election next March could disrupt spring sowing, Russia's grains lobby said on Friday (Dec 2).
Sown area for winter grains is up on last year and weather forecasts are favourable, but spring sowing could be disrupted if officials are distracted by the run-up to the vote in March, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to return to the Kremlin as president.
"A volume of 100 million tonnes can be achieved under average weather conditions and provided that political factors do not interfere," Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union, said on the fringes of a farm conference.
He said that in February-March every year the government issues an order setting spring sowing targets, creating the campaign's headquarters and nominating staff to monitor supply of inputs and to arrange bank loans.
"Resources are the key issue," Zlochevsky said. "If we do not have the necessary package by March, there will be a delay in the sowing and the targeted area may not be sown."
Zlochevsky said political factors may also impede the harvesting campaign, to start in the end of June.
"We are unlikely to have a new government until June and it will not start full work immediately," he said.
Russia harvested 108 million tonnes of grain in 2008 and 97 million in 2009, but last year the worst drought in decades cut the crop to 61 million tonnes.
This year's crop is believed to have recovered to 90-93 million tonnes. A preliminary official estimate is due at the end of December.
Grain output in 2012 may rise to 99.5 million tonnes, mainly due to good prospects for the winter grains crop, Vladimir Petrichenko, head of ProZerno agricultural analysts, told the conference.
"It is not yet a forecast; it is a very early estimate that we are capable of producing around 100 million tonnes of grain," he said.
"A more balanced forecast may be made in February, when we see what happens to winter grains and may start making plans for the spring sowing."
Russia had sown over 16 million hectares with winter grains for the 2012 crop, up from 15 million a year ago, but less than the 18 million hectares sown in 2009.
Winter grains, primarily winter wheat and some winter barley, have bigger yields than spring grains and account for a substantial part of the total grain crop.
SovEcon agricultural analysts said on Thursday that Russia may harvest up to 100 million tonnes of grain next year, basing its preliminary forecast on bright prospects for the winter grain crop.
The Hydrometcentre weather forecasting service has said weather favoured the wintering of the crop.
"The state of the winter grains is not only good, it is very good and its prospects are also good," Petrichenko said.