Hopes improve, a little, for spring barley sowings, after slow start


Modest weather improvements are offering, some, hope of a pick-up in the pace of barley sowings, whose slow start in Europe and the former Soviet Union has cast a shadow ideas of a recovery production this year, encouraged by firm prices.

The International Grains Council last week, in its first forecast for world barley output in 2018-19, pegged it at 147.7m tonnes – a rise of 2.4m tonnes year on year, and indeed the first growth in three years.

Growth prospects have been helped by a largely benign winter in many major growers of winter barley, notably in the former Soviet Union and in the European Union, the top grower and exporter of the grain.

“A recent spell of freezing weather was considered unlikely to have caused much damage to EU winter crops,” the council said.

‘Lingering uncertainty’

However, even if the cold did not prove severe, in terms of duration, it has been unusually extensive, bringing a slow start to sowings of spring crop which, in the EU, for instance, accounted for more than half of overall barley output last year.

Spring barley comprised 31.1m tonnes out of a 60.3m-tonne barley crop overall in 2017, according to industry group Coceral.

The IGC highlighted “lingering uncertainty about the impact of excessively wet conditions in parts of northern Europe,” where it sees spring sowings making up a “slightly larger” proportion of overall area than last year.

Such ideas were underlined by data on Friday showing spring seedings in France at just 38% completed - up 3 points week on week, and well behind the 77% of sowings in the same period of last year.

‘More and more delay’

In Russia, as of Thursday, spring sowing was completed on 150,000 hectares of land, down from 636,000 hectares at the same date last year.

“Spring plantings are registering more and more delay in the Black Sea area,” Agritel said on Friday.

“Because of current cold conditions for the season, producers are less advanced than usual in fertilizer input and barley and pea planting.

“In addition, the thick snow layer which covers the plains of central Ukraine and Russia, except the central district, will induce additional delay of 10 days until the snow melts,” the analysis group said, adding that the setback could see some barley area swapped for that of later seeded crops.

‘Extremely late spring’

At Moscow-based SovEcon, Andrey Sizov Jr, managing director, told Agrimoney that there was “still quite some time” for spring sowing overall, with no alarm over wheat seedings.

However, for earlier seeded crops, such as barley and soybeans, “we need to get this part planted soon.

“The reason of the lag in planting is an extremely late spring.

“If such weather remains intact, sowing area under early crops may be lower than planned,” with the Central reason particularly vulnerable.

Some improvement

In fact, “temperatures remained below normal” in both Europe and the former Soviet Union over the weekend, Radiant Solutions said, noting chill “particularly across Ukraine, Central Region, and Volga Valley”.

And in the former Soviet Union snow is expected this week “in Belarus, far northern Ukraine, and Central Region,” although rains will ease snow cover in southern Ukraine.

Still, in Europe, temperatures have begun “to moderate some” - although with rains now threatening a pick-up in seedings.

Agritel said on Tuesday that "in France, the return of rains will probably hamper the progression of spring plantings.

"With drier conditions these last few days, spring barley sowing have gained momentum."

‘Barley prices still high’

Slow sowings would threaten farmers ability to capitalise on elevated prices of barley, which have unusually even in the feed market have gained a premium to wheat.

French barley “prices are still high due to reduced availabilities at world scale and the strong appetite of China and Saudi Arabia”, Agritel said, pegging feed barley values for July in the port of Rouen at E166.00 a tonne, a E10-a-tonne premium to wheat.

That premium was up from E7.00 a tonne a week ago, and E5.00 a tonne at the start of the month.

A year ago, wheat held a premium to feed barley of E27.00 a tonne in Rouen.

In Russia, SovEcon said that export prices of barley at deep sea held at $216 a tonne week on week, extending their premium over 12.5% protein wheat, values of which eased by $0.50 per tonne to $207.50 per tonne.


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