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Strong Black Sea wheat exports seen as weather boosts crop

Reuters, 04.08.17

MOSCOW/KIEV, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Black Sea wheat producers anticipate strong exports in the current marketing year as recent good weather has buoyed their expectations for bumper crops in Russia and Ukraine, traders and analysts said.

Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which export grain via the Black Sea mainly to customers in Africa and the Middle East, had been broadly expected to see another good harvest this year. However, they may harvest even larger wheat crops than originally thought.

"We did foresee a record crop in Russia's south after our crop tour in late June, we also saw a record crop in Russia's central regions in mid-July. Then we started to receive data which confirms both these facts," said Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR agriculture consultancy.

IKAR raised its forecast for Russia's 2017/18 wheat exports by 0.5 million tonnes to 29.5-31.5 million tonnes after upgrading its estimate for Russia's 2017 wheat crop to 74-77 million tonnes from 72-75 million tonnes this week.

Russia's wheat harvesting is gathering pace, reducing the original delay from a year ago. As of Aug. 3, farmers had harvested 37.4 million tonnes of wheat from 8.5 million hectares, or 31 percent of the total area, with an average yield of 4.38 tonnes per hectare, agriculture ministry data showed.

That was down from 39.2 million tonnes harvested from 9.9 million hectares at an average yield of 3.97 tonnes per hectare by the same date last year.

The quality of the crop is close to last year's but it is too early to say whether it is better than a year ago due to a mixed situation in different regions, Rylko added.

As of Aug. 1, Ukrainian farmers had harvested 19.1 million tonnes of wheat from 77 percent of the total area, down from 21.5 million tonnes on the same date a year ago when 84 percent of the total area was harvested, the agriculture ministry said.

The average wheat yield so far is 3.90 tonnes per hectare, up from 3.74 tonnes a year ago. The yield is higher than it was originally expected to be, and the 2017 wheat crop is currently seen at around 25 million tonnes, two traders said.

"This (crop) is bigger than the one we previously expected," one of them added.

The quality of the crop is, however, slightly worse than last year, with the share of milling wheat at 50 percent of the total crop compared to 60 percent a year ago, traders say.

Analysts at UkrAgroConsult said they currently expect the share of milling wheat at 55-60 percent compared with their original estimate of 65-70 percent and 55 percent a year ago.

Harvesting is only getting underway in Kazakhstan, Central Asia's biggest grain producer, where a total 1.3 million tonnes of grain have been harvested to date from an area of 653,300 hectares, the agriculture ministry said on Aug. 4.

This year's total area sown to grain is 18.7 million hectares, compared to last year's 17.2 million hectares.

Kazakhstan is yet to disclose its wheat crop harvesting data but traditionally the bulk of its grain crop comes in wheat.

The International Grains Council sees Kazakhstan's 2017/18 grain exports at 7.9 million tonnes, down 300,000 tonnes compared to the previous crop season, due to a weaker crop of 17.5 million tonnes compared to 19.4 million tonnes in 2016, which will be partially offset by high stocks.

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