World winter wheat area will rise by some 5m hectares to the highest in 17 years, the International Grains Council said, although grain business leaders in Ukraine warned of a sharp loss in area to wet weather.
The International Grains Council, in its first forecast for global winter wheat area for the 2014 harvest, pegged it at 225.4m hectares.
That represented the highest figure for winter wheat sowings, which greatly outnumber plantings of spring crop, since the 227.7m hectares seeded for the 1997 harvest.
Former Soviet Union expansion
The estimate - which comes amid a firm period for wheat prices relative to those of many others grains, especially corn - reflects in part an assumption that, with persistent dryness easing in many US hard red winter wheat areas, levels of abandonment will return to average levels.
Furthermore, it assumes an increase in the former Soviet Union, "where an expansion in wheat exports is targeted," and where farmers have the capability to expand area "if they get the right financing", IGC analyst Yiro Makarov told Agrimoney.com.
In Russia, dry weather had allowed "good planting progress" in southern areas, although "heavy, localised" rains had slowed sowings in central and northern regions, if providing valuable soil moisture, the IGC.
In Ukraine, "favourable planting conditions have been reported" in westerns, with "more precipitation required" in the east," the council said.
However, by contrast, the Ukraine Agrarian Industry Group on Friday forecast a sharp drop in Ukraine sowings of winter wheat, thanks to rains which left fields too wet for fieldwork.
Plantings, which are typically around 6.5m-7.0m hectares, with 7.0m hectares factored in by the government for this year, will end up at 2.5m hectares, Leonid Kozachenko, president of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, said.
"About 20-25% [of forecast area] is sown as of today," he said, adding that "even if we have favourable weather there is no reason to sow because plants will be unlikely to sprout", having missed the ideal seeding window.
Official data show Ukraine farmers have sown 1.987m hectares of winter grains so far, including 1.8m hectares of wheat, compared with 4.525m hectares of grains, including 4.1m hectares of winter wheat, a year before.
Ukraine winter wheat sowings reached 6.7m hectares last year, according to analysis group UkrAgroConsult, with winter barley seeded on 1.1m hectares.
'More rain needed'
The IGC said that winter wheat area in the European Union for the 2014 harvest was expected to be "little changed" year on year, while flagging persistent dry weather in Greece and Spain.
Area is expected to be stable too in Australia, China and India, as well as in North Africa, although there "more rains will be required to replenish the soil moisture before planting starts in November".