Russia, Kazakhstan face more wheat quality problems

Concerns are growing in Russia and Kazakhstan over a shortage of high-quality wheat — already a major issue for Russia this season — that could undermine their plans to increase exports, traders and analysts said.

Both countries, which together with Ukraine are the three main wheat exporters of the Black Sea region, are boosting their 2013 wheat harvest this year after last year’s drought, but the wheat is lower in quality than last year due to rain.

“There are endless problems with the quality of Russia’s wheat, which have emerged during the harvest,” Russia’s Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) said.

A lack of high quality milling wheat makes it harder for Russian exporters to negotiate with farmers who are holding back such grain — classified as third-class — in anticipation of further price growth.

“(Global) importers are waiting for wheat of high quality — of the third class,” Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, said. “They are not interested in the fourth class and in feed wheat, they can buy it from Ukraine, Romania or Bulgaria.”

More problems may appear as the campaign shifts to Siberia, where the harvest is significantly delayed, he added.

Russia’s 2013 wheat crop is expected to rise by one third to around 50 million tonnes, of which 43 million tonnes have already been harvested from 66 per cent of the sown area with yields at 2.60 tonnes per hectare, up from 1.85 last year.

Siberia has harvested 1.8 million tonnes from 18 percent of the sown area. At the same date last year, more than 60 per cent of the area was finished.

Russia’s crop of third class wheat may fall to 14 million tonnes from 19 million tonnes last year, Vladimir Petrichenko, the head of the ProZerno consultancy, said.

He expects the fourth class, the lowest quality grade of milling wheat, to be up 80 per cent to 20 million tonnes.

Quality in Kazakhstan

For now, Kazakhstan does appear to have high-quality wheat. “About 92 per cent of grain received by the collecting stations is grain of the third class,” deputy agriculture minister Muslim Umiryayev told reporters in Astana.

But he said the quality of Kazakh grain was already lower than last year and could fall further as the campaign shifts to the northern part of the country.

Kazakhstan has harvested 7.5 million tonnes of grains from 40 per cent of the sown area with yields at 1.18 tonnes per hectare, up from 0.83 tonnes per hectare last year.

At the same date last year harvesting of more than 80 per cent of the sown area was finished.

Umiryayev kept unchanged the grain export forecast for this 2013-14 marketing season, which started on July 1, at between seven million and eight million tonnes. Last year the country exported 7.1 million tonnes including flour in grain equivalent.

Preliminary data shows the grain is continuing to ripen, while the gluten content is lower than last year, according to Kazakhstan’s Grain Farming Centre, located in Shortandy, the centre of the main grain belt outside the capital Astana in the north of the country.

Wheat usually accounts for about 90 per cent of the Kazakh grain harvest, officially forecast at 16.3 million tonnes by clean weight this year. The harvest in the three northern grain-growing regions is expected to be over by late October.

Ukraine has already completed its wheat harvest, which will reach 21 million tonnes in clean weight, the government says.

Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan were expected to increase their combined wheat crop by 36 per cent to 87 million tonnes and exports by 22 per cent to 30 million tonnes, according to the latest Reuters poll in early August.

— Reporting for Reuters by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana.

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