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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Next Black Sea Winter Crops Off to Uncertain Start

Dry weather in much of Ukraine and in west-central Russia is forcing farmers to delay planting the next Black Sea winter crops.

Receiving less than half the normal rainfall since early August, and with little forecasted for the near future, Ukrainian farmers have sown nearly 40% less winter rapeseed than was initially estimated, and the optimal window for planting has passed according to the country’s agriculture minister. There still remains time to plant wheat, but the pace of sowing is lagging behind last year.

Winter crops planted late in the season tend to provide lower yields – a critical fact when considering that Russia and Ukraine combined account for almost 25% of global wheat exports.

“Farmers are waiting for rain to return, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Daryna Kovalska, analyst with Macquarie Group Ltd, told Bloomberg by telephone. “As we approach the critical period for planting, they will need to speed up, even if there is still no rain.”

For wheat, there remains a lot of work to be done. Farmers in Ukraine have planted about 15% of their winter grain crops, mostly accounted for by wheat, according to the Agriculture Ministry. In Russia farmers have sown half of their intended winter crops on a cultivated area of 8.3 million hectares as of September 17, compared to an area of 9.1 million hectares at the same point last year.

But for rapeseed the scenario is indeed more serious. Planters in Ukraine, the world’s third largest exporter, have planted 530,000 hectares compared with an original intended planting of 823,000 hectares according to government data, and if the rate of planting does not pick up, the 2016 crop could be the smallest since 2006.

Although the outlook for Black Sea winter-sown crops is doubtful, spring crops currently being harvested, including corn and sunflowers, seem untouched by the dry conditions according to Ukraine’s agriculture minister, Oleksiy Pavlenko.

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