February 10, 2012


Cold snap destroys Ukraine crops


Ukraine's eastern and southern regions' wheat crops have been seriously damaged because of the cold snap which has also killed most of the winter barley and winter rapeseed crops, the state weather forecaster said on Thursday (Feb 9).


"We have written them off," Tetyana Adamenko, head of the agricultural department of Ukraine's meteorological service, told Reuters.


Crops had been left without a significant snow layer to protect them against temperatures of about minus 25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit). Several days of record low temperatures had been enough to kill most crops, already hit by drought during sowing, she said.


"The situation across Ukraine is very varied: we have enough snow on 60% of our land - in the central and northern parts while a lack of snow has hit the east and south," Adamenko said.


Adamenko said last week that Ukraine's harvest of winter grains could fall by 42-58% to between 10 and 14 million tonnes due to poor weather during sowing and wintering. Ukrainian agriculture officials and analysts say about 20% of winter grains have not come up because of drought during sowing, while 33% of those which had sprouted were in a poor state.


The Farm Ministry said at least two million hectares of damaged winter crops would be reseeded this spring mostly with barley and corn.


Adamenko said Ukraine might lose 40% of the sown area. Ukraine sowed 8.4 million hectares for the 2012 winter grain harvest, including 6.7 million hectares of winter wheat, 1.4 million of winter barley.


Ukrainian agriculture officials had said the former Soviet republic would avoid grain export restrictions even in the case of a fall in this year's wheat harvest, but traders say a small wheat crop could force the Farm Ministry to intervene in the market.

"They are worried about wheat and they are thinking what the policy should be," a large Ukrainian trader said.


"The idea is to sign a document with traders in which they would limit wheat exports".


Another trader said the exports of wheat could be limited with 1.2 million tonnes in February-March.


"It's enough for us. The exports of wheat will not exceed 500,000 tonnes in February and 700,000 tonnes in March seem as a real figure," trader said. The ministry declined to comment.


UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy said Ukrainian grain exports might total 1.3 million tonnes in January but could fall to one million in February because of icy weather hitting the ports. It said the main problem facing exports were logistical ones in ports caused by high winds and ice.


But UkrAgroConsult said a fall in the 2012 wheat harvest would not remove Ukraine from the lucrative export market and the country was likely to export 6.3 million tonnes of wheat in the 2012/13 season. Ukraine, which consumes 12 million tonnes of wheat per season, harvested 22.3 million tonnes of wheat in 2011 and exported no more than three million tonnes of wheat so far this season.


"With this pace of exports we could have enough wheat for local needs and for exports even in conditions of a critical fall-off in the harvest", a trader said.