Ukraine sees good winter wheat crop, Russian outlook mixed

Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:38am EST

* Ukraine, Russia keep wheat sowing area stable

* Ukraine sees perfect conditions for good harvest

* Russia needs more time to determine forecasts

By Pavel Polityuk and Polina Devitt

KIEV/MOSCOW, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Winter wheat sowing has ended in the Black Sea region, with Ukraine saying its crop is in near perfect condition and with the Russian outlook still unclear, although the crop is expected to improve overall on the harvest this year.

In Russia, winter wheat looks better than a year ago so far, but warm weather and an expected decrease of total grain planting area raise concerns, said Andrey Sizov, the chief executive of SovEcon agriculture analysts.

This year Russia, historically the world's number three wheat exporter, was hit by hot and dry weather, which slashed its wheat harvest by third to about 40 million tonnes and sent domestic wheat prices to record levels.

In Ukraine, the autumn weather has been excellent for winter crops in most regions for the harvest in 2013, officials say.

"Everything is almost excellent. The condition of crops is probably the best in the last five to seven years," said Tetyana Adamenko, head of the state weather forecasting centre's agriculture department.

"We see mo more than 15 percent of weak crops and at the moment we have a great potential of future crops," she added.

The harvest in Ukraine, among the world's 10 leading wheat exporters, this year fell 30 percent to 15.0 million tonnes after farms lost about 1 million hectares of winter wheat due to severe drought last autumn.

According to Agriculture Ministry data, Ukrainian farms have sown 6.65 million hectares of winter wheat as of Nov. 9, or 100 percent of the original forecast area and more than the 6.5 million hectares sown for the 2012 harvest.

"Conditions are good and we have a good entry in the winter," Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk said earlier this week.

The ministry said 91 percent of crops had sprouted so far and 9.0 percent of them were in poor state. It said 59 percent of crops were in good condition and 32 percent were in satisfactory state.

Adamenko said that weak crops were concentrated in Crimea, part of Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya regions. Southern Ukraine traditionally suffers from a drought.

RUSSIA

In Russia, the outlook for the winter crop will determine whether the government expands grain sales from its intervention stocks, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said this week.

"The situation with the harvest forecast is unclear now. We need to wait for another two or three weeks to see if we can expect a good winter crop and then decide whether to expand the interventions now," Dvorkovich said.

"Otherwise, we can face a grain deficit during the spring, which we can not allow," Dvorkovich, who oversees the Russian farm sector, told a governmental meeting.

Winter wheat accounts for about 40-50 percent of the total wheat planting area in Russia and about 80 percent of its production of all winter grains.

"It's clear that the Agriculture ministry's forecast of 16.8 million hectares of sown area will not become true. The acreage will be lower than last year because of weather and indebted farmers," SovEcon's Sizov said.

"Weather is abnormally warm now, and there is an accelerated use of nutrients before wintering, which can make winter grains weaker than usual," Sizov added.

The picture looks mixed in Russia's southern regions, where winter grain crops are in good shape in some parts of Krasnodar, Volgograd, Stavropol and Rostov after rains brought relief, according to Russia's Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR).

"But there are also large parts where winter grain has already died because of the lack of moisture, plus there are parts where winter grain is weak and will die during the winter," Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, said.

Crop conditions look good in Russia's Central region, while some parts of Volga regions look better than last the did last autumn, he added.

As of Nov. 7, 93 percent of the country's winter grain sowing campaign was completed. Plans call for sowing 16.8 million hectares with winter grains for the 2013 crop, up from last year's 16.1 million. (editing by Jane Baird)

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