October 29, 2003



Ukraine's Wheat Crop To Rise To 11-15 Million Tons in 2004


Ukraine's wheat crop is likely to rise to 11-15 million tons in 2004 from four million in 2003, however the projected harvest still falls far below 2002 and 2001 harvests, analysts said on Tuesday.


"Ukrainian 2004 wheat production is preliminarily forecast at between 11 and 15 million tons," UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy said in a statement.


Ukraine harvested about four million tons of wheat in 2003, 20.5 million tons in 2002 and 21.3 million in 2001.


UkrAgroConsult said Ukraine could not expect a large wheat harvest next year due to a fall in the winter wheat area to about six million hectares in 2003 from 6.75 million in 2002.


"The smaller area sown to winter wheat to 2004 crop and the unsatisfactory condition of a significant part of the wheat area are the main reasons for the relatively small wheat crop in 2004," UkrAgroConsult director Serhiy Feofilov told Reuters.


"As about two million hectares (35%) out of the sown 5.75 million hectares of winter wheat are at the sprouting stage, or have not sprouted yet, a shortage of milling wheat can be expected next year", he said.


UkrAgroConsult noted that plants at the sprouting stage covered 1.42 million hectares (19.7%), while 1.12 million hectares (15.6%) of winter crops had not sprouted yet.


"Taking into account weather conditions we cannot expect a bumper wheat crop in 2004. It will be at up to 15 million tons," a trader said.


Earlier this month weather experts told Reuters that dry and hot weather in September followed by a cold snap in October had affected about 35% of Ukrainian winter grain crops sown for the 2004 harvest.


Due to the bad weather, weather forecasters and analysts speculate that it would be impossible for the government to achieve the ambitious plan to boost grain crop to 40 million tons in 2004 from about 20 million tons in 2003.


Severe frosts last December, ice in January to March and drought in May and June killed or seriously damaged millions of hectares of Ukrainian winter grain crops.


Analysts have said the fall in output will force Ukraine, the breadbasket of the former Soviet Union and an active grain exporter over the past two seasons, to import about 3.5 million tons of milling wheat in the 2003/04 season.

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