The stage looks set for another strong year for European Union rapeseed imports from the Ukraine, as crop prospects between the two geographies continue to diverge.
Strategie Grains on Monday cut again its forecast for the rapeseed harvest in the UK, including the UK – this time by 200,000 tonnes to 17.85m tonnes, taking it further below initial hopes of an 18.46m-tonne crop.
The revised estimate, while an improvement on last year’s 16.89m-tonne result, would still represent a weak harvest by recent standards –the second lowest in fact since 2006.
And it would leave the EU, which has built its biodiesel industry largely around rapeseed as a feedstock, facing another season in 2020-21 of strong imports of the oilseed.
Ukraine - thanks to its geography, and relatively small domestic rapeseed needs, with its own oilseeds crushing industry focused on sunflower seed - represents the default origin for meeting Europe’s import requirement.
Of the 4.25m tonnes of rapeseed that the EU has imported so far in 2019-20, as started in July, a rise of 46% year on year, Ukraine has provided 2.79m tonnes, according to European Commission data.
That makes it by far the biggest origin for EU rapeseed purchases, ahead of Canada on 1.09m tonnes.
For Ukraine, as of January, “95% of the [country’s 2019] harvested rapeseed had been exported to the EU”, Anthony Speight at the UK’s AHDB bureau said.
‘Exportable cash crop’
Indeed, Ukraine farmers “grow rapeseed mainly as an exportable cash crop,” Mr Speight said, an option that has become increasingly viable as a succession of milder winters have improved results for what is in the main an autumn-seeded crop.
Separately on Monday, Ukraine’s grain traders’ union UGA said that the country is poised for a 3.15m-tonne rapeseed harvest, behind the 3.31m tonnes last year, but still a historically strong result.
ProAgro two weeks ago pegged this year’s Ukraine rapeseed harvest at 3.50m tonnes, a rise of some 230,000 tonnes year on year on its data.
‘Worst production since 2001’
The deterioration in EU rapeseed prospects for 2020 reflects a cut in area expectations, Strategie Grains said, cutting its estimate by 60,000 hectares to 5.49m hectares, after wet weather continued to set back crops in northern France and the UK.
The downgrade took the figure below last year’s total, and would represent a 14-year low.
France, the EU’s top rapeseed grower, has estimated its sowings of winter rapeseed – the vast majority of its harvest - at 1.08m hectares, an 18-year low.
In the UK, a closely-watched survey last month showed rapeseed area at 361,000 hectares, down 32% year on year, and down 38,000 hectares since an initial poll in November.
With the best-case scenario meaning our [UK] 2020-21 production figure for rapeseed will be 1.26m tonnes, Mr Speight said, adding that “this means we are possibly going to have the worst rapeseed production since 2001”.
He noted that “with a reduction in planted acreage in the UK, Romania and France… it’s inevitable that the EU will be importing a significant amount of rapeseed for the 2020-21”.