November 26, 2011


Eastern Europe's 2012 grain yield may be cut by drought



The 2012 wheat and barley harvest of eastern and central Europe may be slashed due to extensive drought and delayed sowings, and may also affect the rapeseed crop, farmers and analysts said.


The dry weather has hit Ukraine worst so far, with farmers and weather forecasters saying the major Black Sea grain producer could lose up to 30% of its winter grains.


Lack of rains is putting at risk the crops in smaller Black Sea producers Bulgaria and Romania and delayed sowings in Poland, EU's fourth biggest wheat producer, may have a negative impact on the grain output.


"We have not seen such drought in five years," said Krasimir Avramov, deputy head of Bulgarian National Association. "It puts a lot of risks for the crops, especially if the temperatures drop significantly in the winter and there is no snow coverage.


"It's even worse for the rapeseed growers. Many of them are now considering whether to re-plough the fields and plant other crops," he said.


Dry weather is also a concern in Western Europe, but the planting there are in good shape to resist winter and French analyst Strategie Grains expects a rise in the EU's wheat harvest in 2012.


About 30% of the sown winter crops in Ukraine have not sprouted yet and a third of those that had were in poor state. The country has planted winter grain on area of 8.1 million hectares, the same as a year earlier.


Farm Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk said last week the country might lose about two million hectares of winter grain and this area could be reseeded next spring with maize or oilseeds.


Ukraine is likely to harvest a record 55 million tonnes of grain in 2011 against 39.2 million in 2010.


The drought is pronounced in Romania, where farmers put to wheat 1.6 million hectares, down from a planned 2.1 million, with fieldwork severely hampered.


"Fuel oil consumption is huge due to hard soil and farmers should have finished sowing in mid-October," said an agriculture ministry expert handling crop data. "We may witness a bad crop in 2012, weather is crucial."


Romania reaped a wheat crop of about 7.2 million tonnes this year, up 26% from the previous season.


Farmers in Bulgaria, who have planted about one million ha with wheat and about 200,000 ha with barley and rapeseed, same as a year ago, are also worried the dry weather will slash the crops.


The lack of moisture, combined with low temperatures, are delaying the development of the plantings and about 40% of the wheat has not sprouted yet, making it vulnerable to damage by winter frosts.


In Poland, the process of winter sowings has been delayed by a later-than-usual summer harvest.


"Winter sowings were not timed optimally, which could affect crops, but it is too early to assess the impact of this as we do not know what the weather will be like in the early part of the vegetation period," said Izabela Dabrowska-Kasiewicz, analyst at BGZ Bank in Warsaw.


Poland's grain harvest is expected to fall by 5.5% this year to around 24.1 million tonnes due to poor weather conditions in autumn and spring.


In Hungary, farmers increased autumn wheat and barley sowings to 1.1 million ha and 177,000 ha respectively, but lack of rainfall hindered the development of the plants, the agriculture ministry said.

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