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Russia may cut spring barley sowing area to lowest in decades-analyst

Reuters, 16.06.17

MOSCOW, June 14 (Reuters) - Russia may reduce the sowing area under spring barley to the lowest level in many decades as farmers are switching to more profitable maize (corn) and soybeans, Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR agriculture consultancy, said in a note on Wednesday.

Russia is one of the world's largest wheat exporters but its barley exports have been falling. According to the agriculture ministry, the country exported 2.8 million tonnes of barley, from July 1 to June 7, down 34 percent year-on-year.

In the new 2017/18 marketing year, which starts on July 1, the country could find it difficult to restore its barley exports to a level of previous years as IKAR currently expects Russia's 2017 barley production at 17 million tonnes, down 1 million tonnes from a year ago.

"We are watching the situation very closely and are ready to downgrade it (the forecast) when necessary," Rylko said. He currently expects 2017/18 barley exports at 3 million tonnes but may also downgrade the estimate.

As of June 13, farmers had sown spring barley on 96 percent or 7.4 million hectares of the planned area, down from 7.8 million hectares this time last year, the ministry said.

This is around the lowest level since at least 1970, Rylko said.

"Such a result is associated with two factors: the strategic shift from spring barley to corn and soybeans, which occurs in Russia's central regions and adverse weather across Rostov, Volgograd, and Central Volga regions, which do not allow the fulfilment of the sowing plan."

He added that in 2010 a severe drought reduced the area under spring barley to 6.75 million hectares, down from the area originally sown. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Louise Heavens)

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