Weather to favour late Black Sea crops

Mild temperatures and rain early next week are likely to partially restore grain yields in part of the Black Sea region, forecasters said on Friday, raising hopes for stronger crops and exports from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Wheat production from the three Black Sea-region producing countries, which normally supply a quarter of world wheat export volumes, is expected to drop 30 per cent this year to 70 million tonnes because of a drought, the latest Reuters poll found.

Weak harvest prospects from the region have contributed to drive up global wheat prices by 38 per cent this year and have fanned fears of a global food price scare.

So far, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have refrained from government action to protect the domestic market.

Russia’s deputy prime minister said this week he saw no grounds to ban wheat exports, like the country did in 2010, but he did not rule out protective export tariffs after the end of the 2012 calendar year.

Russian temperatures early next week will be normal or below normal for the time of year, said Anna Strashnaya, the head of the agricultural forecasting department at Russia’s Federal Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring Service (Rosgidromet).

"During the first 10 days of August the weather was hot and favourable for the harvest in the European part of Russia," Strashnaya said. "Temperatures began to decline today and to return to normal level. Rains will partially restore late grains from Aug. 11."

About 44 per cent of Russia’s wheat harvest and 38 percent of its overall grain harvest were completed as of Aug. 7, according to data from the agriculture ministry. Wheat yields were down 29 per cent at 2.32 tonnes per hectare, with 25.2 million tonnes threshed.

The latest Reuters poll predicted that Russia’s wheat harvest, the region’s largest, would fall to 45.5 million tonnes, well short of 2011’s crop of 56 million.

Mild in Ukraine

The crop picture is already clear for Ukraine, a major world exporter of barley and wheat, which has almost completed its 2012 wheat harvest.

The country has already harvested 16.3 million tonnes of wheat, bunker weight, from 99.7 per cent of its planted area, down from last year’s 22.3 million tonnes, the agriculture ministry said Friday.

Ukraine’s government expects to have an exportable surplus of 21 million to 23 million tonnes of grain in the current agricultural year, including five million tonnes of wheat and 12.7 million tonnes of maize (corn).

The latest Reuters poll estimated the wheat crop from Ukraine at 13 million tonnes.

Grain fields will face comfort temperatures of up to 28 C in southern and eastern parts of the country early next week, which could help its maize production, a weather forecaster said Friday.

Rains in Kazakhstan

Yields in Kazakhstan, the Black Sea region’s top producer of hard wheat, are expected to recover in part thanks to rainy weather in August, its officials said during the government meeting this week.

Kazakhstan is expected to harvest 12.8 million tonnes of grain according to the official forecast. A Reuters poll this year put the figure for wheat alone at 12 million tonnes.

Its key northern regions will start the harvest in a few days, while southern regions have almost finished.

Its three northern regions expect to harvest 11.3 million tonnes of grain, including 3.7 million for the Akmola region, 3 million for Kostanay, and 4.6 million for the North Kazakhstan, officials said.

— Polina Devitt writes for Reuters from Moscow. Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana.

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