November 7, 2005


Hungary's corn 50 percent harvested; transport glitch to affect sales



Hungary has so far finished the harvest of corn on 50 percent of the total sowing area, after the pace of harvesting picked up recently due to improved weather conditions, Fulop Benedek, Agriculture Ministry state secretary told the press Friday.


"We have harvested some 4.5 million tonnes of corn so far and the average yield is 7.6 tonnes/hectare," Benedek said.


This year's corn harvest, estimated at 8.5 million tonnes, is bound to exceed last year's bumper crop of 8.3 million tonnes, raising issues of storage capacity.


Buying interest for Hungarian corn has been healthy, especially from Italy, but a serious lack of rail cars is likely to hurt Hungary's corn exports to Italy, said Zsofia Potsa, general secretary at the Hungarian Grain Association.


"Hungarian traders stopped all corn deals destined for Italy about three weeks ago, since keeping delivery deadlines has become impossible because of the lack of rail transport capacity," Potsa said.


Currently, the average amount of corn transported to Italy is slightly above 100,000 tonnes a month versus an optimal 500,000- to 600,000-tonne monthly figure, she added.


The return time of rail cars from Italy exceeds one month on average. This leads Hungarian officials to suspect that rail cars are being used for short-term storage purposes.


The Hungarian rail company MAV Rt. is currently in talks with its Italian counterpart on leasing rail cars but negotiations have so far not led to any results, Benedek said.


Benedek also said that Hungarian farmers are expected to offer a total of 4.5 million tonnes of grain, including wheat and corn, for EU intervention this year. Potsa said, however, that that estimate is too conservative.


The Hungarian government has already bought up 3.9 million tonnes of grain under intervention.


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