Russian winter grain sowings 'to beat official target by a distance'

14.11.2016

Russia's sowings of winter grain, which comprise mainly wheat, look like beating the official target by a distance, SovEcon said, raising the potential in 2017 for a fourth successive bumper harvest.

Russian grain plantings had, after being slowed early in the sowings window by cold weather in some regions, revived to stand at 17.2m hectares as of Friday, according to official data – up more than 1m hectares year on year.

The increase left the total planted area only 150,000 tonnes of the agriculture ministry target, with some three weeks left of plantings to go in some southern areas.

Indeed, total sowings may hit their highest since those seeded in autumn 2009, when they were spurred by soaring prices, said Andrey Sizov, managing director at SovEcon, the influential Moscow-based analysis group.

'Quite good condition'

"We expect area to come in at 18m hectares, even higher than that," Mr Sizov told Agrimoney.com, flagging that Russia's sowings progress data are anyway deemed conservative, and tend significantly to underestimate actual area.

As an extra boost to production prospects next year, crops that had been seeded were entering winter in generally good shape too, in areas including Russia's South, the major origin for the country's wheat exports.

"Crop are in quite good condition, better than average," Mr Sizov said, noting the country's Central region as one area where seedlings appeared to have got off to a poor start, thanks to the hangover from the persistent rains highlighted separately on Friday by Black Earth Farming.

In fact, Black Earth Farming, which operates in Central Russia, said that its own crops were "in excellent condition", while acknowledging the setback to the quality of its latest harvest from rains which were double average levels in August and September.

Worse conditions ahead?

However, Mr Sizov's comments come as winter is setting in in parts of Russia, with Moscow seeing snowfall, and Agritel reporting that temperature should "in coming days… fall down in Ukraine and in the European part of Russia" to about minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Excessively low temperatures threaten winterkill in crops, although the chances of significant damage are reduced if they enter dormancy in good condition.

In the last two years, while crops have gone into winter sapped by autumn dryness leaving them vulnerable to freezing temperatures, mild winters have spared them from notable crop damage.

"Conditions last season were nearly ideal," as reflected in a wheat harvest which hit a record 71.8m tonnes on SovEcon estimates, Mr Sizov said,

"I very much doubt we will have a fourth year of favourable conditions."


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