Russia's agriculture minister raised the country's official forecast
for its grains harvest, despite the dryness in Central and Volga Valley regions
which has raised concerns among some other commentators.
Nikolai Fyodorov pegged Russian grains production this year
at 100m tonnes, up from a previous forecast of 95m-98m tonnes.
A harvest at this level would also represent a significant
increase on last year's 92.4m-tonne result.
And Mr Fyodorov downplayed in his revision a contribution from
Crimea, which Russia annexed two months ago, but which analysis group SovEcon
cited this week as behind a 2m-tonne upgrade, to 90m tonnes, in its estimate
for this year's harvest.
"As for Crimea, there's a drought there now," Mr Fyodorov
"We are not counting on Crimea. It is an experimental region
for us at the moment."
'Drought and heat
In fact, "most private sector forecasters are looking for a crop of 92m-95m tonnes, similar to last year," Richard Feltes at Chicago broker RJ O'Brien said.
Many observers are concerned with a
dearth of rainfall in Central and Volga Valley regions and, further south, in
some parts of North Caucasus, a major source of grain export supplies.
At Martell Crop Projections, Gail Martell cautioned that "in
southern Russia, prospects have worsened from intensifying drought and heat
stress", with temperatures reaching 90s Fahrenheit (32-34 Celsius).
"Rainfall has been negligible over the past month in
Russia's four key winter wheat districts - Krasnodar, Stavropol, Rostov and
will be possible'
Agritel, the Paris-based consultancy with a regional Black
Sea operation, said that "questions grow on the south of Russia, where weather
forecasts are still dry and hot.
"The water deficit intensifies, and really hot days are
forecast," especially this weekend, Agritel said.
"The market will be watchful to this situation."
However, there is some hope of rains next week, with MDA
noting a wetter outlook in the six-to-10 day forecast.
"Some slight improvements will be possible next week," the weather
service said, if cautioning of discrepancy between weather models.
Furthermore, analysts have pointed to moisture reserves in subsoil, replenished by rains in March, as offering some protection against the current dry spell.
Mr Fyodorov said that "there are some reasons to increase
the [grain harvest] forecast today.
"We are monitoring and are adjusting it for growth."