Russia is set for bumper grains exports next season, agriculture
minister Nikolai Fyodorov said, following up last week's upgrade to the harvest estimate, as US officials turned a little more optimistic on the country's output
Mr Fyodorov lifted by 3m tonnes to 25m tonnes the farm
ministry forecast for Russian grain exports in 2014-15, which starts in July.
That would leave volumes, most of which comprise wheat, only marginally behind shipments for
this season, which the US Department of Agriculture expects at 25.1m tonnes and
analysis group SovEcon forecasts at 25.6m tonnes.
Indeed, they would be historically strong, and well above
the 16.3m tonnes achieved in 2012-13.
The country's robust export hopes are in part down the
weakening of the rouble, which has improved the competiveness on global markets
of Russian supplies already renowned for being typically amongst the cheapest
on the market.
However, they also reflect improved harvest hopes, with Mr Fyodorov
last week raising to 100m tonnes the ministry estimate for the Russian grains
harvest this year.
That will includes some 53m-55m tonnes of wheat, he said on
Wednesday, up from the 52.1m tonnes harvested last year.
The official grain harvest forecast is broadly viewed as
optimistic, with some private estimates below 90m tonnes.
However, the USDA bureau in Moscow overnight lifted their
own estimate for Russia's grains harvest by 1.0m tonnes to 92m tonnes, putting it
in line with the 92.3m tonnes achieved last year.
Although poor autumn conditions had held back sowings of
winter grains, what had been seeded was in generally "good" condition, while
growers had been able to make up for lost area through higher spring plantings.
The farm ministry has estimated corn sowings at 2.58m
hectares, up 5.3% year on year, and up 50% on 2011 area, echoing a move to the
grain already seen in neighbouring Ukraine, and helped by seed technology.
The USDA bureau pegged dry weather and farmers' "limited
financial resources" as the two main threats to the Russian grains harvest,
noting that the "overall financing of spring field works is lagging behind the
farmers' needs and last year's level".
As of mid-May, farmers had been able to borrow "only" 75bn
roubles ($2bn) for spring sowings and fieldwork, down 11% year on year.
"The banks are worried by farmers' high indebtedness and the
growth of delinquent loans," the bureau said.
"As a result, the banks increased interest rates, tighten
requirements for collateral, and extended the time for consideration of applications.
"Many farmers do not have liquid collateral and cannot
obtain loans secured by future harvests."