Drought to shrivel Ukrainian wheat harvest in 2016

Kiev — Severe drought across half of Ukraine has hit winter sowing and could sharply reduce the country’s 2016 wheat harvest, a senior state weather forecaster said on Monday.

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

Farmers have completed the sowing of winter wheat for next year’s harvest, seeding only 86 per cent 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),” Tetyana Adamenko, the head of the agriculture department at Ukraine’s state weather centre, told Reuters.

UkrAgroConsult consultancy sees the harvest reaching around 19 million tonnes in 2016, allowing Ukraine to export about 10 million tonnes of wheat in the 2016/17 season.

Ukraine harvested 24 million tonnes of wheat this year and plans to ship abroad 16.5 million tonnes of the commodity in the 2015/16 season which runs from July to June, according to a USDA October forecast.

The Ukrainian agriculture ministry has said 3.5 million hectares or 55 per cent of the seeded area had sprouted as of Oct. 29 and only 69 per cent of this was in good or satisfactory condition. It said 2.8 million hectares had yielded no seedlings so far.

Adamenko said that 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 around three months.

UkrAgroConsult said that the area under winter wheat could total 5.7 to 5.8 million hectares 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 told Reuters last month that Ukraine’s winter wheat acreage could shrink by more than 10 per cent due to dry weather this autumn.

He also said that the uncertainty over winter wheat sowing 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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