Ukraine's grains harvest will reach a bumper 60m tonnes this
year, lifted by a strong start to autumn-sown crops – provided fears over thin
snow cover are not realised.
UkrAgroConsult, in its first forecast for grains production
in a country once known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, pegged it at
60.1m tonnes, up some 3.5m tonnes from last year.
The forecast comes despite a dismal start to autumn sowings which
were, as in Russia, delayed well beyond the ideal planting window by persistent
However, warmer-than-usual conditions in October and
November allowed farmers to catch up on most of their autumn sowings, now seen
falling less than 400,000 hectares for wheat, and, combined with moistened
soils, ensured crops a strong start.
"Owing to sufficient soil moisture supply everywhere and
warmer-than-usual weather in October and November, condition of winter crops
improved significantly prior to their entry into winter," Kiev-based UkrAgroConsult
'One of the best'
Indeed, 99.9% of winter grains had emerged by early
December, compared with 95.5% a year before.
And the proportion of the crop rated "good" or "satisfactory"
was well above 90%, the best result in at least five years.
UkrAgroConsult forecasts for Ukraine's 2014 grains harvest and (change on year)
Winter wheat: 21.64m tonnes, (+3.0%)
Spring wheat: 440,000 tonnes, (+10.0%)
Winter barley: 3.50m tonnes, (+32%)
Corn: 27.45m tonnes, (+5.6%)
Total grains (includes others): 60.092m tonnes, (+6.3%)
"Overall, this year's condition of winter grains at the end
of autumn growing was one of the best in recent years," the influential
"This year's normal density and mostly optimum development
of plants, enough productive moisture in the soil suggest that these crops'
grain yields will be somewhat higher than last year."
However, the consultancy acknowledged some downside to its
estimate for the overall grains production in the forecast of a 27.45m-tonne
corn harvest, saying this may prove optimistic given dents to farm
There was a "probability" that the consultancy would
downgrade its forecast of 5.08m hectares of corn sowings, "due to decreased
corn growing margin in 2013.
"Comparatively low market grain prices, and additional grain
production costs for drying too-wet corn, slashed revenues of many farms," UkrAgroConsult
"Decreased application of inputs in grains cultivation
practices may reduce [crop] productivity against last year."
Furthermore, the forecast assumes no pick-up before the end
of the winter in frost damage to crops – a concern of many investors given unusually
warm winter temperatures, which have melted the protective snow blanket.
In some areas of the Black Sea "there is not enough snow cover
to protect crops from any sharp drop of temperatures", Agritel noted.
UkrAgroConsult noted that "5-15 centimetres of snow covered
winter crops in most regions, except the Steppe zone, from December 1-10. This
snow melted almost entirely by the end of December".
'Snow cover limited'
Weather service MDA said that "snow cover remains limited across
Belarus, western and southern Ukraine and southern North Caucusus".
However, MDA added that a snow blanket "should begin to
rebuild there in the six-10-day period as cooler conditions return.
"Temperatures should remain above winterkill levels across