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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Drought Threatening to Shrink Ukraine’s 2016 Wheat Harvest

Serious drought conditions across half of Ukraine have negatively affected winter sowing and could significantly reduce the country’s wheat harvest in 2016, according to a senior state weather forecaster.

The central Dnipropetrovsk region has experienced its driest autumn in half a century which could result in a 20% year on year decline in the coming wheat harvest for the world’s sixth largest exporter.

Weeks of dry weather and depleted soil moisture have led farmers to seed only 86% of the initially expected acreage 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 center told Reuters.

Ukraine harvested 24 million tons this year and expects to exports 16.5 million tons in the 2015/16 season according to the October forecast issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, UkrAgoConsult forecasts that the country will harvest 19 million tons in 2016, allowing for 10 million tons of exports in the 2016/17 season.

As of October 29, 3.5 million hectares, or 55% of the seeded area had sprouted, with 69% in good to satisfactory condition. Another 2.8 million hectares have produced no seedlings as of that point. Warm weather in the coming weeks could help germination, however survival through the winter is doubtable.

Agriculture minister, Oleksiy Pavlenko, told Reuters that the uncertainty surrounding the outcome for next season’s wheat crop was a key factor in the delay in signing a grain export memorandum for the 2015/16 season.

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