High yields may boost Ukraine grain exports

KIEV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine’s grain crop and exports will be higher than previously forecast due to good weather conditions and higher yields, the agriculture ministry and a consultancy said, though their numbers differed.

Farm minister Yuri Melnyk said the 2009 grain crop would reach 45 million tonnes, from a previously forecast 42 to 43 million.

The UkrAgroConsult consultancy said the crop would be 41.66 million tonnes from a previous estimate of 40.67 million.

The 2008 grain harvest reached a record 53.3 million tonnes.

Melnyk said farms had completed early grain harvesting with the crop at 37.4 million tonnes by bunker weight.

The ministry expected to receive an additional 10 million tonnes of corn by clean weight in 2009, he said.

In 2008, farms harvested 25.9 million tonnes of wheat, 12.6 million tonnes of barley and 11.4 million tonnes of corn.

Kiev-based UkrAgroConsult raised the outlook for wheat to 19.65 million tonnes from 19.39 million, barley to 11.2 million from 11.0 and corn to eight million from 7.6 million.

“Soil moisture content in eastern and central Ukraine is higher for the period than it has been in the past two years. Good crop conditions in central regions allow us to raise our (corn) crop estimate to 7.8 million tonnes,” UkrAgroConsult said.

“And if rain falls within the next week, the (corn) crop may reach even eight to 8.2 million tonnes at the expense of improved condition of late hybrids.”

Alina Fedyai, analyst with agriculture firm Bunge, said the 2009 Ukrainian crop was likely to total 42.3 million tonnes.

This includes 20.05 million tonnes of wheat, 11.6 million tonnes of barley and 7.8 million tonnes of corn, Fedyai said.

Melnyk said 2009-10 grain exports could fall to about 18 million tonnes from about 25 million in 2008-09.

“Exports totalled 4.8 million tonnes as of Sept. 8, including 600,000 tonnes so far this month,” he said.

UkrAgroConsult increased its export forecast to 17.7 million tonnes from 17.05 million, expecting higher sales of all leading commodities.

It said exports could include 7.75 million tonnes of wheat, six million tonnes of barley and 3.7 million tonnes of corn.

“Ukraine will remain the world’s biggest exporter of barley. A fall in barley output of 10 to 25 percent in the EU, Canada and Russia will allow Ukraine to retain its strong export position,” UkrAgroConsult said.

Fedyai forecast the sales at 16.82 million tonnes, including 7.5 million tonnes of wheat, six million tonnes of barley and three million tonnes of corn.  

Melnyk said some Ukrainian regions had started winter grain seeding for the 2010 harvest, but a lack of rain across Ukraine had affected progress.

“We have sown about (1.5 million acres) to winter grains. This is not a lot, but many regions have not yet started sowing due to a lack of rain,” he said, adding the total winter grain area was likely to total 17 million acres.

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