MOSCOW (Reuters) — Rain will cut the area Russia sows for winter grains by one-fifth compared to the official forecast, the Agriculture ministry said on Monday, fuelling speculation that 2014′s winter wheat crop could fall and put pressure on global supply.
U.S. wheat was trading near a 3-1/2-month high on Monday, partially on the worsening outlook for sowing in the Black Sea region.
Russia is expected to be the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter in 2013-14 after a recovery in its total wheat harvest to 50 million tonnes last season. But the risks for next year’s harvest are rising due to bad weather.
Winter grains for the 2014 crop were sown over 8.7 million hectares, or 53 percent of the planned area as of Oct. 7, compared with 12.8 million hectares at the same date a year ago, according to the latest Agriculture Ministry data.
Russia will sow about 13 million hectares of winter grains, instead of the 16 million hectares previously planned, agriculture minister Nikolai Fyodorov said on Monday.
Fyodorov said Russia had not endured such a rainy autumn for a long time.
“One 70-year-old guy told me that according to his father the last time this kind of autumn was seen was in the 1930s,” he told the briefing in Moscow.
The ministry hopes an increase in the area sown for spring grains will compensate for the shortfall and recommends farmers sow more corn.
“We need to prepare and to increase the area for spring grains to the same figure or slightly more,” Fyodorov said.
Some farmers can also increase the area sown for spring barley or sunflower seeds, but there will remain significant risks of a poor wheat harvest in 2014, SovEcon Agriculture analysts said.
The opportunity to substitute winter wheat with spring wheat is quite limited, because the regions will not have enough seeds in reserve to resow areas during the spring, the head of SovEcon, Andrei Sizov, added.
Taking into account average wheat yields, the lower area means Russia could harvest between 7.0 million tonnes and 7.5 million tonnes less in winter wheat crops, according to SovEcon.
The Institute for Agricultural Market Studies has widened the range of its forecast for 2014 winter wheat losses to between 3.5 million and 11 million tonnes, from four to 10 million tonnes previously, its head, Dmitry Rylko, told Reuters.
Over the last six years, Russia has harvested about 34 million tonnes of winter wheat per year, according to IKAR. Currently its yield for the winter and spring harvests combined is 2.4 tonnes per hectare.
As for this year’s crop, the country has already harvested 81 million tonnes of grains, including 50 million tonnes of wheat, from more than 83 percent of the sown area. By clean weight, these figures would be about five percent smaller, Fyodorov said.
He kept the 2013 grain crop forecast unchanged at 90 million tonnes, by clean weight, including 50 million tonnes of wheat.