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Russian wheat crop forecast cut by IKAR as dry weather persists

Reuters, 20.04.20

MOSCOW, April 20 (Reuters) - Dry weather is persisting in Russia's southern regions, the country's main area for wheat production and exports, analysts said on Monday, with one of them, IKAR, downgrading its forecast for the 2020 crop.

Rains are expected to arrive to those regions soon and could yet improve the situation for the crop from the world's largest wheat exporter. The crop is still expected to be higher than in 2019.

IKAR, one of the leading agriculture consultancies in Moscow, cut its forecast for Russia's 2020 wheat crop to 77.2 million tonnes from 79.5 million tonnes, it said on Monday. It has yet to calculate a new forecast for all grains.

There is a low level of moisture in soil in parts of Russia's Krasnodar and Rostov regions, but "there is no catastrophe", said Arkady Zlochevsky, the head of Russia's Grain Union, a non-government farmers' lobby group.

"Even if soil drought occurs in these areas, it will be compensated by other regions," he told reporters.

The union expects Russia's 2020 grain crop to reach 130 million tonnes, including 80 million tonnes of wheat. In 2019, Russia's grain crop was 121 million tonnes, including 74.5 million tonnes of wheat.

The weather is improving in the Black Sea region both for Russian and Ukrainian sowing, with 20-40 mm of much-needed rain expected to arrive within two weeks, said Sovecon, another Moscow consultancy.

However, it remains possible that the expected rain will be insufficient, it said, adding that there was very little precipitation in southern regions last week.

"Rains in April are very good and timely, but we need to see more in May to offset the accumulated moisture deficit," it said.

Crop conditions in some other regions of Russia, including the Volga and central part of the country, still look good or even improved after last week's rain and snow.

Spring grain sowing continues in both Russia and Ukraine. As of April 20, Russian farmers had sown spring grains on 4.8 million hectares, or 17% of the total area, compared with 3.2 million hectares a year ago.

Ukraine's 2020 spring grain sowing is one third complete. Officials there have said that a lack of rain last autumn and this spring would lead to a smaller wheat harvest in 2020 after a record crop in 2019.

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