KIEV (Reuters) - Unusually hot and dry weather across almost all Ukrainian regions has not yet damaged grain crops but there is no reason to expect a bumper harvest of early spring grains this year, a senior weather forecaster said on Thursday.
Favorable weather this mild winter and early spring was replaced with excessive heat in April, raising fears in a small crop of spring crops - spring wheat and barley - as farmers had a very limited time frame to complete sowing in the best period.
The agriculture ministry still sees this year’s grain crop at the last year’s level while analysts have already reduced the outlook for barley - Ukraine’s key early spring grain.
UkrAgroConsult agriculture consultancy has already twice lowered its forecast for the 2018 barley harvest to 7.75 million tonnes as of mid-April from 8.7 million in late March.
“There is no reason to expect a good harvest of early spring crops - barley and spring wheat. Probably there will be a crop at the level of average annual values,” Tetyana Adamenko, a senior official at the state weather forecaster, told Reuters.
“We had one of the most arid Aprils in our history. We expect some weather fronts late this week and next week but they can only mitigate the situation,” she said, adding that drought has already hit some areas in Ukraine’s southern regions.
Snow winter has created significant reserves of moisture in the soil and, Adamenko said, winter cereals and late spring crops were still safe.
Ukraine is likely to harvest around 62 million tonnes of grain this year, UkrAgroConsult said, noting it may increase wheat and maize output, but harvest less barley than a year ago.
The last year’s grain harvest of 61.3 million tonnes included 26.1 million tonnes of wheat, 24.1 million tonnes of maize and 8.3 million tonnes of barley.
Ukraine, the world’s third-largest grain exporter, said the area covered by spring and winter grains would exceed 14 million hectares this year.
Ukrainian farmers have sown 4.4 million hectares of spring grains or 60 percent of the total area as of May 2. The sowing area included 1.4 million hectares of spring barley, 398,000 hectares of peas, 174,000 hectares of oats, 152,000 hectares of spring wheat and 2.27 million hectares of maize.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by David Evans