Reports out of Russia seem to indicate that the country’s wheat crop could be bigger than many are anticipating, but it is deceiving, says an analyst.
Russia’s agriculture ministry last week said wheat was averaging 40.6 bushels per acre with 37 million acres harvested, or 63 percent of the anticipated crop.
That is well above the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast of 34.2 bu. per acre.
If the average remained at 40.6 bu. per acre for the rest of the harvest, it would result in 65.5 million tonnes of wheat, which is well above the USDA’s forecast of 54 million tonnes.
Other estimates are below the USDA’s number. SovEcon forecasts a 51.7 million tonne crop, and Russia’s agriculture ministry expects 50 million tonnes.
So why such conservative production estimates when average yields have been so high to date?
Mark Lindeman, a crop assessment analyst with the USDA, said it’s because the first part of the harvest is winter wheat, which yields higher than the spring wheat that follows.
“Now that they’re harvesting spring wheat, that cumulative yield that they’re reporting should start to go down pretty soon,” he said.
The average yield was 28.7 bu. per acre this time last year but had fallen to 26.8 bu. per acre by the end of harvest. That wasn’t a big drop, but last year’s winter wheat crop was an anomaly.
“They had some very low yields in the southern district, which typically is their most productive area,” said Lindeman.
The spring wheat crop was harvested earlier than normal last year, and there were extremely disappointing yields in the Siberian and Ural districts.
This year it’s the opposite. The spring wheat crop is two to three weeks delayed in Siberia, but the yields look promising, said Lindeman.
“It’s a situation that the potential is high but the risk is high,” he said.
“There’s a little bit more cause for concern only because of late development.”
Kazakhstan is south of Russia’s Siberian Federal District and has experienced similar weather.
“They’ve had outstanding conditions for wheat there,” said Lindeman.
Khazakhstan’s agriculture ministry says grain yields have averaged 21.4 bu. per acre, up 56 percent from last year with 27 percent of the crop harvested.
The ministry did not have a wheat estimate, but most of the crop is wheat.
The USDA’s wheat estimate for Khazakhstan is 25 bu. per acre.
Lindeman said the country’s grain yields don’t typically drop and may rise slightly as harvest progresses because it moves into higher-yielding areas in the north.
“The lower-yielding areas tend to get harvested first,” he said.
Crop development is also delayed in Khazakhstan.
Both countries have the potential for good, although not record, wheat crops, but a lot depends on how September and October turn out.
Lindeman isn’t worried about frost so much as persistent wet or snowy weather during harvest.
The USDA is anticipating 26.5 million tonnes of wheat exports from Russia and Kazakhstan in 2013-14, up 49 percent from last year.
The number may be revised when the USDA releases its new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report Sept. 12.