Black Earth Farming sounded a subdued note on Russia's grains output, flagging doubts over both quantity and quality, a factor reflected somewhat in its own crops, after weather setbacks following a promising start to harvest.
The farm operator, which controls a Russian landbank of 310,000 hectares, said that while the country's wheat harvest was to improve on last year's drought-hit result, "yields are varying considerably across different regions".
"Current estimates of the Russian grain harvest vary quite widely, between 85m-95m tonnes," leaving forecasts for the exportable surplus "somewhere between 15m-25m tonnes".
Furthermore, "there are still many unknowns in terms of crop quality," Richard Warburton, the Black Earth chief executive said.
The south of Russia is "reporting low specific weights and all regions [are] experiencing widely varying gluten levels", he said.
"Grain quality has been highly varied, and the price premium for milling quality wheat over feed is larger than normal."
The comments come amid widespread doubts over the US Department of Agriculture's estimate of a 54.0m-tonne Russian wheat harvest this year, with some estimates below 50m tonnes.
However, analysis group SovEcon, which estimates the crop at 51m tonnes, cautioned on Thursday that the newly-started Siberian harvest could yet offset disappointment in areas such as the dryness-plagued Volga Valley, with strong prospects for neighbouring Kazakhstan boding well for the region.
Black Earth Farming said that its own harvest of winter wheat, by far its biggest crop by area and output, had come in at a yield of 3.3 tonnes per hectare, with 16% yet to go, a marked improvement on the 2.1 tonnes per hectare achieved last year.
"For winter wheat, it's a significant improvement compared to the last three years," Mr Warburton said.
However, the improvement on spring barley was less marked, with yields from the first half of the harvest up a more modest 0.2 tonnes per hectare at 2.4 tonnes per hectare, while the small spring wheat crop had, in the first 21% of harvest, shown a decline in yields.
"Spring crops at this stage look a bit more varied," Mr Warburton said.
"We experienced some establishment problems towards the end of spring planting," besides "exceptional pest pressure in oilseed rape", which had prompted the group to lower its forecasts for oilseeds harvest.
Meanwhile, wet weather which set in towards the end of July "has caused frustrating delays to harvest progress and is also starting to affect crop quality somewhat".
Back into the black
Nonetheless, he remained upbeat on the group's financial prospects, saying that for the full year "underlying operational performance will likely be much improved.
"We expect to make significant improvements in the key underlying trends of crop yield and, most importantly, cost per tonne."
The comments came as Black Earth unveiled a return to profit for the April-to-June quarter of 406.9m roubles ($12.4m), compared with a 249.1m-rouble ($7.61m) loss a year before.
However, the result included a boost from the better harvest prospects, which resulted in a one-off gain of $21.7m in terms of the value of the group's crops.
Revenues were, at 621.7m roubles ($19.0m), up 9.3% year on year, boosted by a run down in crop inventories nearly to zero with the sale of more than 55,000 tonnes from last year's harvest, mainly of sunflower seed.
Black Earth Farming shares added 2.1% to SEK7.45 in morning deals in Stockholm.