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Russian analysts lift 2017 wheat crop forecasts sharply

Reuters, 11.08.17

MOSCOW, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Leading Russian agriculture consultancies SovEcon and IKAR raised their estimates of Russia's 2017 wheat crop sharply to record highs on Friday on strengthening yields of the incoming crop.

Russia, which competes with the United States and the European Union for the title of the world's top wheat exporter, had been expected to see another bumper crop after a record harvest in 2016 due to favourable weather.

However, the crop will be even higher than SovEcon and IKAR had originally expected. Their move follows an upgrade to Russia's 2017 wheat crop forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to 77.5 million tonnes on Thursday.

"The main reasons for the upgrade are record crop yields, good condition of spring grains and a hefty level of moisture in the soil," SovEcon said in a note.

It raised its forecast for Russia's 2017 wheat crop to 77.9 million tonnes from 72.9 million tonnes. Russia's grain harvest is now seen at 125.2 million tonnes, comparedwith an earlier estimate of 117 million tonnes, it added.

IKAR, also Moscow-based, raised its forecast for Russia's 2017 wheat crop to what it called "a new incredible range" of 77-80 million tonnes from a previous outlook of 74-77 million. The grain crop is now forecast at 127 million tonnes, it added.

"The record yield is being confirmed in more and more grain-producing regions," Dmitry Rylko, head of IKAR, said.

Russia harvested a record crop of 120.7 million tonnes of grain, including 73.3 million tonnes of wheat, in 2016.

This year, farmers have so far harvested 56.8 million tonnes of grain with an average yield of 4.12 tonnes per hectare from 29 percent of the total area, Agriculture Ministry data showed on Friday. The wheat crop is 39 percent done.

SovEcon's forecast for barley was raised to 17.9 million tonnes from 16.5 million tonnes, and for maize (corn) to 16.4 million tonnes from 14.7 million tonnes.

Spring grains are showing higher yields than the average seen in recent years, SovEcon said.

All key Russian grain-producing regions - Southern, Volga and Central - are expected to harvest a record wheat crop this year, it added, with the central region's crop showing the highest increase of 18 percent year-on-year.

The southern Krasnodar region, one of the main wheat-producing and Black Sea exporting areas, plans to boost its grain harvest by 200,000 tonnes to a record 14.2 million tonnes this year, Interfax news agency cited regional officials as saying.

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