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Ukraine wheat crop to fall to four-year low in 2018

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Ukraine’s wheat production will fall to a four-year low this year, despite some recovery in sowings and a strong start for crops, UkrAgroConsult said, while seeing some easing in corn output too, but flat oilseeds production.


The influential analysis group, in its first detailed production forecasts for 2018, pegged Ukraine’s wheat harvest at 25.1m tonnes – a drop of 1.0m tonnes year on year.


The forecast came despite ideas that winter wheat sowings expanded by 105,000 hectares to 6.27m hectares, as measured by official data, defying earlier ideas that weather setbacks would see plantings of winter cereals fall short of expectations.


Indeed, the official estimate for winter wheat sowings was ahead of the 6.1 hectares that farmers had expected plant, according to agriculture ministry data.


‘Condition is encouraging’


UkrAgroConsult also highlighted the strong condition of winter grain crops – of which wheat accounts for well above 80% by area - with 85.6% of winter cereals rated in “good” or “satisfactory” condition.


“Condition is encouraging so far, being the best in four years.”


The 99.6% of seedings which had emerged was, “owing to favourable weather conditions… the highest percentage in a few years”, the Kiev-based group said.


‘Potential risk factor’


However, UkrAgroConsult also said that “some concerns” do remain over prospects, with winter crops showing “slow” growth rather than remaining in dormancy - so leaving them vulnerable to winterkill from a cold snap.


This when 14.5% of wheat, equivalent to 911,000 hectares, was rated in “weak, spare condition” which may “become a risk factor in case of a sharp weather deterioration”.


The 25.1m-tonne wheat harvest estimate included a yield estimate of 4.11 tonnes per hectare, the three-year average level, although below the 4.21 tonnes per hectare achieved last year.


The output estimate also included a forecast of 170,000-200,000 hectares for spring wheat plantings.


Sunflowers vs soybeans


The group also forecast a small drop in Ukraine corn output this year, of 200,000 tonnes to 25.0m tonnes, reflecting ideas of a small drop in area, to 4.30m hectares.


By contrast, sunflower area will show an increase of some 3% to 6.55m hectares, supporting a harvest of 14.02m tonnes this year.


Extra area will come in part at the expense of soybeans, for which sowings will shrink by 3% to 1.70m hectares.


Rapeseed outlook


The – mainly winter seeded – rapeseed harvest, much of which is exported to the European Union for use in making biodiesel, was pegged at 2.11m tonnes, not far off the 2017 result, and remaining well above the depressed level of 2016.


Rapeseed is a tricky crop to grow in Ukraine, thanks to its greater susceptibility to winterkill than wheat.


Indeed, UkrAgroConsult allowed for losses of 200,000 hectares of winter rapeseed, out of the 1.01m hectares seeded.


Ukraine’s overall oilseeds output this year was pegged at 19.60m tonnes. little changed year on year.

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