Russia, Ukraine may cut grain crop forecasts as temperatures rise

Moscow/Kiev | Reuters — Major Black Sea wheat exporters Russia and Ukraine may cut their official 2015 grain crop forecasts as recent hot weather has raised the risks to plants and rains elsewhere have delayed the harvest and dented quality, farmers and officials said.

Russia and Ukraine’s agriculture ministries have said if hot weather persists into mid-July, they may have to lower their grain crop forecasts from the current 100 million and 60 million tonnes, respectively.

“Several areas are already having drought, which will lead to some losses,” Arkady Zlochevsky, the head of Russia’s Grain Union, told Reuters on Friday.

However, these areas are not crucial for the country’s total crop, while the situation in southern Russia, the most important region for wheat growing and exports via the Black Sea, is quite good, he added.

The situation has been more difficult in Ukraine, where temperatures across most regions have exceeded 30 C for at least a week, affecting the development of late grains, maize (corn) in particular.

Simultaneously, rain in Russia’s south has delayed harvesting and may slightly damage wheat quality. “(Wheat) quality always worsens after rains, but there has not been any major damage, it is dry there now,” Zlochevsky said.

In Ukraine’s southern and central regions, rain has also delayed harvesting and caused fungal infections, hitting the quality of the wheat.

“Recent rains were clearly unwanted,” Tetyana Adamenko, the head of the agriculture department for the state weather centre, told Reuters. “We see blackening of ears, lower quality.”

“We will not revise our forecast but we can state that the quality will be lower,” she added. Adamenko currently predicts Ukraine’s 2015 grain crop at 59.6 million tonnes.

Russia’s Grain Union is keeping its 2015 grain crop forecast unchanged at 95-96 million tonnes for now, Zlochevsky said.

Russian farmers have harvested 7.5 million tonnes of all grains from two million hectares as of July 9, down from 10.9 million tonnes at the same stage a year ago. Yields were at 3.79 tonnes per hectare, up from 3.54.

Ukrainian farms have already harvested grain from 1.1 million hectares compared with 2.9 million hectares at the same date in 2014.

Reporting for Reuters by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev.

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