Good start for Ukraine grains lifts harvest hopes

Winter grains entered dormancy in Ukraine with among their best condition ratings in recent years, lifting hopes of a minimal need for spring reseedings, and a hefty rebound in production.

UkrAgroConsult said that while persistent had cost Crimea half its winter grain area, 95-98% of crops in major growing areas, such as Cherkasy, Kharkiv and Poltava, are "in good and satisfactory condition".

"Winter cereals have high yield potential," the influential Kiev-based group said.

With high levels of autumn emergence of crops - and snow cover generally adequate to protect crops against frost, and temperatures which have fallen to -28 degrees Celsius in Luhansk "the reseeding of winter grains with spring crops is expected to be small, at 300,000-400,000 hectares.

Last year, Ukraine farmers replanted more than 2.0m acres of winter crops, after cold and dryness caused more extensive damage.

Spring seedings drop

Indeed, spring plantings of many crops look set to be lower this year, thanks to the smaller supply of land for replanting.

Spring barley sowings will drop some 15% to 2.4m hectares, while those of corn will tumble 13.3% to 3.9m hectares.

Nonetheless, with winter crops typically yielding more, Ukraine's wheat production next year will jump by nigh-on 50% to 21.0m tonnes, UkrAgroConsult said.

The consultancy pegged Ukraine's overall grains production at 51.85m tonnes, a rise of 24%.

'Partially degraded' 

The upbeat stance contrasts with more cautious comments from Agritel's Ukraine bureau, which said on Wednesday that winter grain condition had been "partially degraded by the cold wave that hit the country during the month of December".

Data from official agro-meteorologists shows 12% of winter crops in poor condition, compared with 7% at the start of December, with 40% in poor health in Crimea.

"At this stage, it is reasonable to assume that cultures in the Southern District of Russia," a major source of wheat export supplies, "suffered from the same cold wave," Agritel said.

"Indeed, the conditions experienced by the south west of Russia were relatively similar to those recorded in the Crimea - a fall drought associated with some negative temperatures and no snow cover."

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