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Crisis takes toll on Ukraine corn projection

KIEV (Reuters) — Crisis-hit Ukraine’s corn crop is expected to slump almost 20 percent this year, a Reuters poll has showed, as farmers from the major global exporter feel the impact of reduced financing.

As Ukraine teeters on the brink of partition, the crisis has toughened lending conditions and some farmers have been forced to use cheaper seed or cut the amount of fertilizer they purchase.

Others have struggled to secure loans to replace old equipment.

A survey of 11 traders and analysts produced a median forecast of 25.0 million tonnes for this year’s corn crop, down 19.1 percent from last year’s record 30.9 million.

The crop would still, however, be the second largest on record and more than double the 11.9 million produced just four years ago.

The survey gave a median estimate for harvested area of 11.6 million acres, down less than three percent from the prior season’s 11.9 million, while yield was expected to fall more sharply by 14 percent.

China stockpiles to support prices

BEIJING (Reuters) — China will start a second round of pork stockpiling for state reserves as part of efforts to shore up falling domestic prices, the country’s state planning body reported.

The National Development and Reform Commission did not say how much would be purchased after a first round of buying in March failed to support prices, which have fallen for 19 weeks in a row.

Syria struggles to buy food

LONDON, U.K. (Reuters) — War-torn Syria is struggling to buy food in the quantities it needs, despite repeatedly issuing tenders for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sugar, rice and wheat, trade sources say.

The sources, who have knowledge of the country’s commercial food deals, said the country’s three-year civil war, which has claimed more than 150,000 lives and forced millions from their homes, is taking its toll, with large suppliers increasingly unwilling or unable to provide cargo for the Syrian market.

Smaller suppliers have stepping in, but are unable to meet the full demand.

On top of the risks of trading with a country wracked by violence, suppliers to Syria require licences from U.S. and European Union authorities, even for unrestricted humanitarian goods, which creates extra red tape and delays.

Kansas fears drought

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) — Wheat prospects in Kansas, the top U.S. producer of the grain, are the poorest in 13 years after months of drought and a bitterly cold winter, said scouts on an tour of the state.

Scouts on the Wheat Quality Council’s tour of Kansas projected the state’s 2014 wheat yield at 33.2 bushels per acre, the tour’s lowest projected yield since 2001, following surveys of 587 fields last week.

Scouts also estimated total wheat production in the state at 260.7 million bushels. The five-year tour averages are 41.8 bushels per acre and 328.1 million bushels, of total wheat production.

“It is two to three weeks late, extremely short, and I am predicting they will have smaller heads than usual, which will reduce yields,” said Ben Handcock, executive vice-president of the Wheat Quality Council.

“I don’t think freeze damage is a real serious issue in Kansas. The issue is drought.”

Rain may yet salvage many fields, but some predict it is too late.

Court sides with White House on biofuel

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — A U.S. appeals court has thrown out an oil industry challenge to the president Barack Obama administration’s 2013 biofuel mandate, ruling that the government has “wide latitude” to decide whether to modify renewable fuel use targets and by how much.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected arguments from refiners that the Environmental Protection Agency had not thoroughly considered how renewable fuel credits are used to satisfy federal targets.

The ruling could have broad implications for the biofuel mandate, as various groups weigh challenges to EPA’s management of the program. The EPA’s final 2014 quotas are due out in June.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of biofuels such as ethanol to be blended into U.S. gasoline and diesel supplies through 2022.

U.S. refiners need to accumulate credits, or Renewable Identification Numbers to prove they have blended their share of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel.

If they do not blend, they need to buy RINs.

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