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Russian sugar production on track for record high

, 21.11.19

· Sugar production forecast at 6.750 mil mt in 2019-20
· Exports limited to CIS countries
· Ag Ministry calls for 15% acreage cut in 2020

Sugar production in Russia is expected to hit an all-time high this season. The latest figures from consultancy Ikar showed production had reached 4.882 million mt as of November 18, up from 4.438 million mt a year earlier but higher than the 4.541 million mt at the same point in 2017-18 when the Russian sugar output posted the previous record of 6.460 million mt. For 2019-20, we are forecasting Russian sugar production of 6.750 million mt, a sharp increase from 5.913 million mt the previous season. A combination of a 1.6% rise on the year in the planted area to 1.145 million hectares, despite adverse market conditions, and favorable weather has led to the increase in production. In 2018, Russian beet yields were reduced by abnormally hot, dry weather.

As a result of this surge in production, Russian sugar exports have started the season (August-July) on strong note, reaching 149,379 mt over August-October, nearly the triple those a year earlier. However, despite the jump in sugar shipments, Russian exports have remained restricted to countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan the main destinations on 66,364 mt and 45,387 mt, respectively.

The impact of the surge in Russian exports on global trade flows will be limited as the country is gaining market share at the expense of Ukrainian sugar. Ukraine’s sugar output will shrink this season following a sharp drop in the area planted to beet this spring, which will in turn mean lower exports and make space for Russian sugar. Both countries’ sugar exports combined should increase slightly to 735,000 mt in 2019-20 from 702,000 mt the previous season.

Russian sugar production has been on a constant uptrend over the few past years, turning the country into a net sugar exporter after being one of the largest raws importers for many years. However, shipping the surplus to the world market has been a challenge, given the lack of infrastructure at Russian ports to export and the remoteness of sugar factories from those ports. Moreover, the bumper crop this season has pushed domestic prices sharply lower. On November 19, spot Ikar Domestic Krasnodar prices were assessed at $294.90/mt, a drop of 44.5% since the start of the year and well below $560.69/mt a year earlier.

As a result, the Russian Agriculture Ministry has called for a reduction in the beet acreage of 15% in 2020 with the aim of optimizing the sugar industry. If beet growers comply, it would mean that planted area would go back to a level similar to the 998,400 ha in 2015-16.

Platts/Kingsman Daily Sugar News

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