Drought threatens Ukrainian 2016 wheat harvest: forecaster

KIEV, Ukraine (Reuters) — Severe drought across half of Ukraine has hit winter seeding and could sharply reduce the country’s 2016 wheat harvest, a senior state weather forecaster said Nov. 2.

The drought, in which the central Dnipropetrovsk region suffered its driest autumn in 50 years, could lead to a 20 percent year-on-year fall in the wheat harvest, hitting exports from the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter.

Farmers have finished seeding winter wheat for next year’s harvest, planting only 86 percent of the initially expected area because weeks of dry weather left fields without enough moisture for germination, according to government data.

“We are not expecting a good wheat harvest. It is clear that next year’s wheat harvest will be much smaller (than in 2015),” said Tetyana Adamenko, head of the agriculture department at Ukraine’s state weather centre.

UkrAgroConsult consultancy expects a harvest of 19 million tonnes next year, which allows Ukraine to export 10 million tonnes of wheat in 2016-17.

Ukraine harvested 27 million tonnes of wheat this year and plans to export 15 million tonnes in 2015-16 season, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture October forecast.

The Ukrainian agriculture ministry has said 8.7 million acres, or 55 percent of seeded area, had sprouted as of Oct. 29, and only 69 percent of this was in good or satisfactory condition. It said 6.9 million acres had yielded no seedlings.

Adamenko said relatively warm weather in the first week of November could expand the sprouted area, but its chance of surviving though the winter would be “very small.”

“Only a global weather anomaly could improve the situation,” she said, adding that some leading Ukrainian grain production areas such as Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolayiv and Zaporizhya had seen no rain for three months.

UkrAgroConsult said the area under winter wheat could total 14.085 to 14.332 million acres this year.

“The last time an area this size was sown with winter wheat was in 2006 and 2004, when the gross crop amounted to 13.8 and 16.5 million tonnes respectively,” it said in a report.

Agriculture minister Oleksiy Pavlenko said last month that Ukraine’s winter wheat acreage could shrink by more than 10 percent because of dry weather this autumn.

He also said that the uncertainty over winter wheat seeding and concern about the volume of the next year’s harvest was the main reason for a delay in signing a grain export memorandum for the 2015-16 season.

Traders said last month that the ministry and traders’ unions had failed to sign a memorandum to determine the amount of grain available for export in the 2015-16 season, adding to market uncertainty.

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