* Weather to favour high grain output this year
* Spring grain sowing area seen smaller
* Drought slashed grain production in 2012
By Pavel Polityuk and Polina Devitt
KIEV/MOSCOW, Feb 27 Favourable weather is likely
to help the Black Sea region's three top grain producers -
Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan - restore grain output this year
after a shattering fall in 2012, analysts and officials said.
Russia, usually one of the world's top wheat exporters, was
hit by drought last year, which slashed the grain harvest by a
quarter to 71 million tonnes and forced the country to step up
imports to cover domestic demand.
Kazakhstan's grain harvest, hit by a severe drought, more
than halved to 12.9 million tonnes by clean weight last year
from a post-Soviet record of 27.0 million tonnes in 2011.
Ukraine's crop fell by 20 percent to 46.2 million tonnes.
But this year's weather conditions look much better and
analysts say the harvests are likely to rise, despite smaller
The Russian Agriculture Ministry targets a grain harvest of
95 million tonnes this year and expects to sow 33 million
hectares to spring grain.
Grain Union head Arkady Zlochevsky however said that spring
grain was likely to be sown on a smaller area than expected - at
about 28 million hectares, flat year-on-year.
"If we sow as much as last season and if we don't have any
cataclysms with the winter crop, then with average weather
conditions we can expect to harvest 90 million tonnes of grain,"
He said the condition of the winter grain crop had improved
recently, particularly, in Russia's South region.
Meanwhile, Russia's winter grain plantings are in worse
condition than the multi-year average in the main southern
breadbasket region due to unfavourable winter weather,
The percentage of crops in a poor state stood at 10.5
percent, about 1.5 percentage points more than the long term
average, the head of state forecaster Rosgidromet Alexandr
More crops in southern regions, which account for about a
third of Russia's total grain crop, were at the risk of cold
weather returning after abnormally high temperatures, he said.
But authorities of Russia's Krasnodar region, a key wheat
exporting area, have said the region may double the grain
harvest this year thanks to an average level of spring grain
crop and high level of winter grain crop.
Krasnodar may harvest 10.9 million tonnes of grain this
year, including 7 million tonnes of winter wheat, it said in a
statement, adding that 90 percent of the region's winter grain
crops were in good condition.
Grain in Kazakhstan will be sown on a total area of 15.9
million hectares, including wheat on 13.1 million hectares,
which is 329,000 hectares, or two percent, less than in 2012,
the Agriculture Ministry said this week.
The Central Asian nation's main grain growing regions in the
north will start sowing after May 20, Agriculture Minister
Asylzhan Mamytbekov told reporters.
Mamytbekov said Kazakhstan's annual grain crops averaged
17.7 million tonnes in the 2008-12 period. He declined to give
any early estimates for this year's harvest.
"The volume of moisture in the soil this spring allows us to
hope for good sprouting. In some areas, this level of spring
moisture will be enough even for bushing out. But in the final
account, everything will depend on rains in the summer," he
Ukraine, which has already started 2013 spring grain sowing
, plans to harvest no less than 50 million tonnes
of grain this year against 46.2 million tonnes in 2012.
The Agriculture Ministry has said a higher crop could be
achieved due to much better condition of winter grain crops and
despite a 10-percent fall in the 2013 spring grain sowing area.
More than 91 percent of Ukrainian winter grain crops were in
good or satisfactory condition as of late February versus 66
percent at the same date in 2012, according to the data provided
by analyst UkrAgroConsult.
It said 62.2 percent of the sown area was in good condition
compared to 26.8 percent a year ago.
The ministry has said that no more than 400,000 hectares of
winter crops were damaged by frost and could be reseeded, while
weather forecasters predicted a reseeding of up to 800,000
"Drought in autumn and ice crust this winter have damaged
crops in the Crimea, Sumy, Chernihiv and Kherson regions,"
Tetyana Adamenko, head of the state weather forecasting centre's
agriculture department, told Reuters this week.
(Additional reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana and
Dmitry Solovyov in Almaty)