ALMATY (Reuters) — Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest grain producer, can export up to 9.5 million tonnes in the 2013-14 marketing year after raising its grain crop forecast to 18.5 million tonnes, Agriculture Minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov said on Monday.
The nation of 17 million had planned to reap 16.3 million tonnes of grain by clean weight this year. It had previously forecast grain exports of seven million to eight million tonnes in the current crop year.
The world’s ninth-largest nation by area had threshed 14 million tonnes of grain from 11.19 million hectares to date, or 71 percent of the total sown area, Agriculture Ministry data showed on Monday.
Yields have averaged 1.25 tonnes per hectare, up from 1.19 tonnes as of Sept. 18 and well above last year’s yields of below one tonne per hectare.
“Taking into account the tempo of the harvesting campaign … we have revised our forecast for the grain crop to up to 18.5 million tonnes,” Mamytbekov told a news conference broadcast from the capital, Astana.
Kazakhstan annually consumes between seven million and eight million tonnes of grain, he said.
“Taking this (higher harvest) into account, we plan that our export potential will also rise … to above annual average and reach between 9.0 million and 9.5 million tonnes,” he said.
Kazakhstan sells its grain — mainly wheat and wheat flour — to neighbouring countries of post-Soviet Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan.
Exports of grain and flour in grain equivalent by rail fell to 1.39 million tonnes between the start of the current crop season year on July 1 and Sept. 20 from 1.87 million tonnes in the same period a year ago, Agriculture Ministry data showed.
The country exports the bulk of its grain by rail. The Caspian Sea port of Aktau in western Kazakhstan accounts for between 500,000 tonnes and 600,000 tonnes of grain annually.
Kazakhstan’s wild steppes were sown with grain during the Soviet Union’s “Virgin Lands” campaign of the 1950-60s. It exported 7.1 million tonnes of grain in the 2012-13 crop season, down from a record 12.1 million tonnes in the previous season.
Lower exports last marketing year followed a poor grain crop in 2012, which more than halved to 12.9 million tonnes by clean weight from a post-Soviet record of 27.0 million tonnes in 2011.
This year’s harvesting campaign in the main grain-growing regions in northern Kazakhstan had been delayed by heavy rains. The harvest is expected to be over by late October.
Of the total amount of grain threshed, only two million tonnes have reached elevators to date, Mamytbekov said. “It’s mainly wet grain that’s coming in right now,” he said, and the bulk of harvested grain has to be dried on threshing floors.
A better grain crop this year means that Kazakhstan’s state grain trader, The Food Contract Corporation, has not had to make any significant interventions on the local market so far, where bread prices have been stable.
“There is no reason for the state to intervene,” Mamytbekov said. “Demand and supply on the market are now balanced, at about 27,000 and 28,000 tenge ($176-$183) per tonne.”