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Need for feed spurs jump in Russia, Ukraine soybean acres

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Is the former Soviet Union, an increasing force in corn, to become a major player in soybeans too?

Ros Agro, the sugar beet-to-pork group, on Tuesday revealed that it had hiked by 129% to 28,000 hectares its sowings of soybeans, besides an increase of 82% in its small acreage of corn.

The shift into the oilseed - at the expense of peas, for which plantings have halved - is more than a Ros Agro phenomenon.

Fellow farm operator Black Earth Farming expects to plant 19,300 hectares with soybeans this year, continuing an increase from its first seedings in 2010.

And Russian soybean area overall is forecast by the US Department of Agriculture to reach a record 1.5m hectares, on a harvested basis, matching that in Ukraine, also an all-time high, if still small beer compared with the expanses planted in the US and South America.

Improved conditions

The growing popularity of the oilseed - which is expected to find extra acres in part of reflects in part at the expense of sugar beet, plantings of which have tumbled 30% - reflects a "change in climate" around the central Russian area where Ros Agro farms, company spokesman Sergei Tribunsky said.

"Whether it is down a permanent change in climate or a few lucky years, but things have been better for growing soybeans," he said.

Furthermore, farm technology and agronomic practice has improved.

"New knowledge and new machinery has made soybeans easier to grow," Mr Tribunsky told Agrimoney.com.

Capacity growth

And there is certainly a market for soybeans, thanks to the growth of the meat industry, which has been a priority in Russia, in an attempt to depress a historic reliance on imports.

"There are a lot of pig breeding farms now operating in the central part of Russia," including Ros Agro's own, for which the group primarily grows its corn and soybean crops.

Rival pork giant Miratorg last year built a soybean crushing plant in Belgorod, in western Russia, where trading group Efko is constructing a crushing site too.

Furthermore, many commentators have flagged the potential for exports, given that Russia, as one of its commitments on joining the World Trade Organization, is cutting its soybean export duties from 20% to zero.

Russia's main soybean production region is in in the Far East, which is attracting "strong demand" from Chinese buyers, albeit able to meet only a tiny fraction of the China's overall import needs.

No GM

The one frustration for Russian growers is their inability to use the cutting edge, genetically modified seed employed by rivals in the Americas.

"We are not allowed to use GM. We cannot use the same seed technology as that which allows US farmers to achieve large yields," equivalent to more like 3 tonnes per hectare.

By Agrimoney.com

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