Prospects for Black Sea grain output received a double
whammy when Kazakhstan cut its harvest forecast to half 2011 levels, minutes
after UkrAgroConsult lowered its estimate for Ukraine's production.
Sagintai Zhumazhanov, a senior official at the Kazakhstan
farm ministry, blamed a decline in rainfall for a cut to 14m tonnes, from
15m-16m tonnes, in the official forecast for the grains harvest.
The figure compares with a US Department of Agriculture
estimate - up for revision in a monthly crop report tomorrow – that Kazakhstan
will harvest 15m tonnes of wheat alone, plus a further 2m tonnes or so of
And it falls well below the 27m-tonne result, for all grains,
last year, a post-Soviet record, boosted by unusually benign weather.
"There has been less rainfall than last year. Therefore, the
forecast crop yields are about half those we had last year," Mr Zhumazhanov
'Cut for silage'
The downgrade followed the reduction by UkrAgroConsult, the much-watched
crop consultancy, to 43.4m tonnes, from 45.5m tonnes, in its estimate for the
Ukraine grains harvest, representing a fall of some 14% year on year.
The forecast remains in line with that of Ukraine's official
Hydromet weather centre, and a little above that of rival consultancy ProAgro, which
on Monday pegged the crop at 42.8m tonnes.
However, UkrAgroConsult was particularly downbeat on corn,
for which it cut its forecast by 1.25m tonnes to 20.0m tonnes, below estimates
from other commentators.
The downgrade reflected dryness in the south, where plants
are "depressed, drooping in the daytime", and set to produce "a low grain yield
if the drought persists".
"Part of the crops may fail to develop cobs and will be cut
for silage," the Kiev-based group said.
While dry weather, and a cold winter, has long been
recognised as a threat to Ukraine's winter wheat crop, seen by UkrAgroConsult as
tumbling 32% to 13.6m tonnes, damage to spring-sown corn from the moisture
deficit is only now being factored in.
And it comes at a time when Ukraine corn has taken global
importance, with a bumper crop last year driving the country to second place in
world exporters in 2011-12, behind the US, on USDA estimates.
Indeed, disappointing Ukraine corn production would place further
pressure on South America to fill a void in supplies expected to be created by
a disappointing harvest in the US, where crop ratings were further downgraded
in an overnight report.
UkrAgroConsult's comments of Ukraine corn being cut for
silage echo those of USDA officials who warned that in drought-struck Indiana, "some
farmers and crop insurance representatives are discussing the prospect of
destroying or cutting corn for forage".
However, the International Grains Council last week flagged
higher hopes for some corn crops, including China's.