Russian farmers continue to struggle with drought

While North American farmers hope for dry weather to seed their crops, Russian farmers are scared to seed without more moisture.

For the fourth year in a row, weather problems in Russia may support global crop prices.

“They’re running out of time,” said Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc.

“They haven’t got enough (moisture) to carry them through.”

Parts of Russia’s spring wheat, corn and sunseed growing area are suffering from drought again. Topsoil is dry and little subsoil moisture remains after years of dryness.

Lerner said Russia has a similar seeding season to Western Canada’s, with farmers anxious to get the spring wheat crop in before June 1. Corn and sunflowers are sometimes seeded later, but a few days into June is the latest Russian farmers want to push those crops.

The strong crop prices that have been the norm since 2007-08 are partly attributable to the general commodity bull market and partly to growing demand from developing countries, such as China.

But another important factor has been crop problems, such as the droughts that have hit Russia since 2010.

Production shortfalls caused the Russian government, fearful of food shortages, to halt to exports in 2010.

The Russian situation is beginning to dominate many analysts’ thinking, replacing the Midwest dryness as the main concern.

Lerner said this switch in focus makes sense, considering the underlying problems in Russia.

“They have never really fully recovered,” he said.

“They are probably in worse shape than they have been for a couple of years . . . It’s gotten to be terribly, terribly dry.”

He said the situation is not irreparable yet, but the next three weeks will be crucial.

Australia is also worrying markets, with dryness afflicting western and eastern growing regions, although showers are expected in the east this week.

Both regions are dry at a time when farmers should be starting to seed winter canola and wheat. However, Lerner said Australian farmers still have lots of time to sowed their crops.

Good yields are possible even with seeding in June and July.

For Russian farmers, crucial days are ahead and they are hoping another disaster does not set them back.

“The Russian situation is flaring up again.”

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