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Russia rains trim hopes for 2014 world wheat crop

The planting delays in the former Soviet Union prompted the International Grains Council to cut its estimate for world wheat area for the 2014 harvest but not by much, with increases in the likes of Europe and the US to take up the slack.

The council trimmed by some 3m hectares to 222.9m hectares its forecast for world wheat area making it to harvest next year, after "winter sowing experienced a setback in Russia and Ukraine from wet weather in September", conditions highlighted separately on Friday by farm operators Kernel Holding and Trigon Agri.

Area in Morocco is also expected to fall a little, with "more precipitation required for normal crop establishment", while in Canada, 9.9m hectares is expected to be harvested, down 400,000 hectares on this year's total, which was the highest in a decade.

However, with northern hemisphere sowings being completed "under generally favourable weather conditions", the overall area next year will still be 3.1m hectares higher than the 2013 number of 219.8m hectares.

'Higher profitability'

That would be a historically high level, close to that in 2008 and 2009, if behind the 227.7m hectares reached in 1997.

And it includes increased estimates for regions including the European Union, where wheat area is seen rising by 500,000 hectares to a six-year high of 26.3m hectares.

"Farmers are expected to increase the area of wheat due to higher profitability compared to other crops," and particularly in at the expense of corn, the IGC said.

"Weather conditions have been mostly favourable for the establishment of newly-sown crops, with plentiful soil moisture, although some planting delays were reported due to rainy weather," the council added.

China, US increases

In China, wheat area will rise 200,000 hectares to 24.3m hectares, supported by a switch to cotton.

"Seasonably dry weather prevailed across winter wheat areas of the North China Plain, including the key producing provinces of Henan and Shandong, with low temperatures slowing wheat development,"

In the US, wheat area for the 2014 harvest is seen jumping 1.5m hectares to 19.8m hectares, thanks in part to increased sowings, seen up 3% at 23.3m hectares, but also improved conditions, until a recent cold snap.

"Winter wheat growing conditions remained generally favourable across much of the Great Plains, except for southern parts, which stayed dry, and there have also been some recent reports of cold weather damage."

Better condition

The IGC also highlighted the better health of the crop, with the US Department of Agriculture rating 62% of the crop as "good" or "excellent" as of November 24.

"Winter wheat ratings are an important indicator for the US wheat market, and are often referred to when considering crop prospects," the council said.

However, it warned against reading too much into the data, so early in the growing season.

There is only a "weak correlation between November wheat ratings and final performance of the crop", it said, flagging analysis of 25 years of data

A year ago, "although crop conditions were seen as very poor, there was a significant recovery, and the harvest finished with above-average yields.

While this year's ratings "suggest a higher probability of above-average yields, conditions over the remainder of the growing season can change the results considerably".

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