February 9, 2012


UkrAgroConsult cuts Ukraine's wheat crop by 39%



UkrAgroConsult slashed its 2012 forecast for Ukraine's wheat yield by 800,000 tonnes, to 13.7 million tonnes, implying a drop in output of almost 39% on-year.


UkrAgroConsult lowered the bar on hopes for Ukraine's wheat, damaged by a dry autumn and cold temperatures, and warned of damage to rapeseed too but set the scene for, another, bumper corn crop.


More than two million hectares of Ukraine's winter grain crops have been lost to winterkill, the largest area for eight seasons, after temperatures fell as low as -34 degrees Celsius, the influential analysis group said.


The damage, out of a total area of 7.1 million hectares, came on top of setbacks from a dry autumn which, even before the cold snap, had left one-third of the crop in "poor" condition, with 1.29 million hectares, or 18%, failing to sprout at all.


Rival consultancy ProAgro last week forecast the crop at 14.57 million tonnes.


The outlook for rapeseed was poor too, with 21% of area lost to the drought even before the cold snap, which has claimed a significant part of the surviving crops.


Some 260,000 hectares of rapeseed entered the winter period with two-to-five leaves, meaning "its hardiness is very low and there is a high probability that at least half of these crops will not survive until spring", UkrAgroConsult said.


With Ukraine set to lose 30-35% of winter rapeseed, this year's harvest, including spring-sown crop, looks like falling to 1.1 million tonnes.


However, lost winter grains at least presented the opportunity for reseeding land with spring crops, of which sunflowers looked to be a popular choice, being "drought-resistant and highly profitable".


Corn area also looked set to increase, potentially to four million hectares, taking production of the grain to 20 million tonnes a second successive bumper harvest - also helped by an improved soil moisture profile so far in 2012.


Ukrainian imports of corn seed more than doubled at the end of last year, to levels not usually seen until the run-up to harvest, signalling an enthusiasm among farmers for the grain.


A strong harvest of corn could take Ukraine's total grains production to 45 million tonnes, UkrAgroConsult said.


The figure was ahead of its previous forecast for a 44.7 million-tonne crop, if down from last year's 56.7 million tonnes.


The forecasts come amid a scramble for information on the impact of the cold temperatures, in part to assess the likely impact on exports of a country which, until drought in 2010 and duties last year, had been a top-rank wheat shipper.


UkrAgroConsult forecast that Ukraine's wheat shipments would come in at 7.6m tonnes in 2011-12 leaving a sizable 5-6 million tonnes in storage - with logistical problems caused by the cold adding to setbacks which began with the export tariffs, which were lifted in October.