Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wish you were here!

Managed to grab a couple of days away for a last minute holiday hence a lack of blogs, normal service will be resumed in about a week.

I have made the short trip back to Blighty and the first thing that struck me was how darn helpful everyone has been. I went to the bank to give them a roasting but they immediately fixed my problems which kind of took the wind out of my sails. People in shops have been helpful and friendly. It really is easy-peasy in the UK.

The other thing that struck me was how dry it has been, eveything is brown and crispy which can't help matters. While we have had it hot and dry in Ukraine there has been frequent rain events during May and June which has kept everything much greener.

The final thing that struck me was how fat everyone is looking. That's not good.

Wheat selling this week at 1,300UAH for grade 4, OSR 3,200.

OSR combining finished, on to the wheat.

Off to the beach, ciao.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Weather & harvest update

Warm, dry, etc, etc...scorchio...more of the same...combines a go go...yields down...protein up...money up...kerching...happy days...

The rally continues; where will it end?

Looks like Fat Yuri was spot on.

Markets have picked up momentum as Russia started selling off 3MMT of stocks; Paris closed at €175 and London at £129.50.

My contacts in Russia tell me the drought induced impact on crop production is set to get worse.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Weather & harvest update

Warm, dry and sunny, combines working all hours. Forecast is for further settled weather.

Prices dipped slightly again as markets closed last night, but still more than acceptable.

This hot weather may have improved the quality of wheat with our first samples achieving Grade II.

Ukraine: "not that" forgotten granary of Europe

Despite the clichés the Grauniad give an up beat and generally plausible assessment of Ukraine farming prospects let down by shoddy journalism.

"We are getting yields of 40 quintals [400kg] a hectare and we hope to achieve 53 quintals very soon" – I would be bricking my kecks if we only got 400kg.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Latest prices

Oilseed rape price still holding, latest local quote as of five minutes ago 3,200грн (314€).


My pal Richard Rozwadowski has just returned from a 2,000km road trip around Belarus. I used to work in Belarus about ten years ago and it was pretty much knackered so unless he has suddenly got a job with the Belarusian tourist boards it sounds as if things have very much changed for the better. This is what he had to say.

“Generally the roads are in very good condition, even in small villages. The main motorways are in top condition and it is one of the nicest places to drive in Europe as not only no speed cameras and no police but also very little traffic. There is a $1 toll to pay on the M1 motorway but you can only pay in dollars, Euro or Russian roubles but not Belarussian roubles. It meant I had to pay by credit card twice so am interested to see how much my $1 will cost.”

“Crops looked good and I did not see a single weed in the fields. Mostly barley, wheat and maize (probably for forage). The maize looked tremendous and better than any I've seen in Ukraine. Generally the whole country is very tidy and clean. However still state farms and still with about 450 staff employed per one farm of 2,000 to 3,000 Ha. Obviously the cost of production is really high. Belarus has focused on livestock production and plenty of large herds of cows out grazing, under electric fences. Probably Belarus does not have much impact on international trade as most of the grain is fed to livestock.”

“From 12-14 July I saw 6 combines working (including 2 Claas mega) on rape but there was actually very little rape grown which is surprising as Belarus has good rainfall and generally light land like Western Ukraine. However Lukashenko, either does not count rape as a crop, or these guys were out of line as Lukashenko has ordered that the Belarussian harvest starts on July 25th. Don't be late!”

“Belarus is liberalising fast and has jumped up the World Bank / IFC 'Ease of doing business' about 50 places to just above Spain. Miles above Ukraine which is down at 115 or so. I can't see any foreigners investing in Belarus (3 McDonalds in Minsk is about it) so not sure how practical their liberalisation is on the ground.

“Interesting to find out how they survive. One way is obviously by printing money and a quick shop in the supermarket (we only saw one large supermarket) cost 250,000 Belarussian roubles! Some of the cashpoints even give 1 million! It's 3,000 to $1. Prices are like in Ukraine, petrol a bit more and cigarettes really cheap. There are NO soviet cars In Minsk but less jeeps than Kiev and generally cheaper than Kiev cars (Opel, Ford etc).”

“Interesting country and worth keeping an eye on it.”

Indeed it is, many thanks Richard.

Weather & market update

Another hot and sunny day ahead. Forecast is for continued settled weather. Combining cracking on at a fair lick.

Most markets closed slightly lower last night. Does that mean the fun is over?

My mate Fat Yuri reckons that “we are seeing short specs just holding back the market as seen with last nights close in what will continue to be an increasingly desperate rally as the full extent of the Russian, Kazakhstan drought is felt and significantly lower than expected harvest results start filtering in from western Europe.”

Monday, 19 July 2010

Machinery shortage worsens Ukraine crop problems or does it?

Saying that Ukraine has a shortage of machinery is a bit like asking the Pope about his religious preference (here).

There has been a machinery shortage in Ukraine since I first came here over ten years ago and yet it’s never really been an issue.

The level of productivity achieved with what would be considered scrap in other countries never ceases to amaze me. Necessity is the mother of invention and these boys know a thing or two about sticking machines together with elastic bands and chewing gum.

Plus we were asked if we needed more combines at the weekend and four miraculously appeared.

So I really don’t think a shortage of machinery is a new issue or one that will make that much of a difference to this harvest or to the next.

But it does contribute to the overall level of nervousness in the grain trade which will just continue to push the price up farther so perhaps I shouldn’t complain too loudly.


Latest local price quoted for oilseed rape 3,200грн (€312).

Weather & harvest update

At the risk of sounding repetitive the weather is once again hot, sunny and dry and combining is going flat out all over the place.

Land has even been worked ready for the next crop. I wonder how much oilseed rape will be sown over the next few weeks on the back of this rally?

A six months old crime scene

This is an interesting picture taken yesterday; it’s oilseed rape with large weed patches that the combine is working around.

The weeds correspond to areas of pooled water that froze to around six centimetres thick for three months and killed the crop. The weeds have filled the gap left by the crop.

The odd thing is in an adjacent field drilled at the same time, same seed rate, same variety, same everything there was very little or no winter kill. Also on slopes the level of losses is notably less.

What can you deduct from this? That oilseed rape will survive very low winter temperatures and is a viable crop in Ukraine even in a very cold year but can not tolerate being locked in to ice for extended periods of time? Possibly.

Would sub-soiling have helped? It might have allowed some of the melt water to drain away slightly quicker and reduced the depth of pooled water that re-froze to cause the higher than average levels of winter losses we saw this season.

Does that mean that sub-soiling will reduce the level of winter kill?


Sometimes the answer we seek is not in an obvious place.

Oilseed rape harvest…

...on the final leg.

We are nearing completion of the rape harvest; here is a load of the stuff in a shed waiting for a buyer, drop me a line if you’re interested, serious offers over 3000грн will be considered.

We have started on the wheat with first yields off one of our poorer fields is coming in at a shade over 4t.

Intervention prices

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has set the following minimum and maximum intervention prices. Price per metric tonne and including VAT.

“A” group soft wheat:
1st grade 1320 -1584грн (130-155€)
2nd grade 1235 -1482грн (121-145€)
3rd grade 1150 -1320грн (113-130€)

“B” group soft wheat:
4th grade 1011 -1213грн (99-119€)
5th grade 975 -1170грн (96-115€)
6th grade 960 - 1101грн (94-108€)

Hard wheat:
1st grade 1452 -1742грн (142-171€)
2nd grade 1364 -1637грн (134-161€)
3rd grade 1243 -1492грн (122-146€)
4th grade 1142 -1371грн (112-135€)
5th grade 1101 -1322грн (108-130€)

Sunday, 18 July 2010


More blue skies and glorious harvest weather today and set for the next few days.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


As promised, yesterdays oilseed rape yields which are between 1.8t and 2.1t per hectare. Some poor fields in amongst those figures so I am expecting to see them rise in the coming days.

Moisture content now down to 8-9%.

Blue skies, 30 degrees, settled.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Does a loaf of bread have to cost the Earth?

"Prices can't keep rising all the time, can they?" said that same vague City analyst of the other day (here).

Well my mate Fat Yuri reckons they can and this is what he said on the matter; just before he slipped in to a vodka induced marathon sing-a-long and once he’s on one of those you just can’t get any sense out of the bugger, sometimes for days on end.

“You can make about 1,250 standard loaves out of one tonne of wheat which is worth about €1,500 retail” he said.

"Wheat is trading today at a 22 month high of about €175 per MT” continued Yuri.

“Mr Farmer has huge amounts of capital tied up so he can plant seed and nurture it risking ice, snow, frost, rain, drought, hail, pest, disease, fire and theft to sell at just above the cost of production which might be less if the Government decides to mess about with the market.”

“His wheat is then turned in to a loaf and sold at about 850% mark up.”

He went on, "half the environmental damage today is caused by farmers having to produce food at the lowest possible unit cost in order to try and achieve some sort of margin so they can carry on trading and if wealthy consumer spent more on their weekly shopping bill rather than fags, booze (I thought this was a bit rich) and glossy magazines then the world would be a much, much better place!” Blimey Yuri.

Fat Yuri then went on with “If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum…all day long I'd biddy biddy bum…if I were a wealthy man.”

I lost Yuri at this point, but you get his sentiment.

What is really going on?

I have read several reports over the last few days on the state of the harvest in Ukraine with comments like “gluten is being washed out even as you look".

While they have had a wet time of it in Crimea it’s worth bearing in mind that Ukraine is a big country; it extends 820 miles from west to east and almost 660 miles from north to south and it’s blue skies and “combines are go” status elsewhere.

It’s a bit like basing harvest conditions for England on reports from the Isle of Wight.

Weather & harvest update

Blue skies, currently 27 degrees, it's going to be another hot one.

Combines still working, moisture rose through the night as you would expect but on average around 9%. No drying costs.

I will have some yields later today as the daily harvest reports come in.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Oh happy days

Unless you have an order to fill but for the time being the humble farmer is set to make a few quid. Don't worry though as the trade will get it all back later.


I'm just waiting for seed, fertiliser and pesticide prices to start moving upwards.


Todays close; Paris Nov delivery oilseed rape 370.75 EUR, wheat 176.75 EUR.


Combines working through the night.

Fancy a dip?

As the temperature soars in Russia so does the body count. Vodka and swimming just don't mix!

Getting munted to the point that you forget you can’t swim then going for a swim and drowning is pretty common place by all accounts.

My mate is a murder detective in Moscow and the stories he has around this time of the year as they fish one bloated body after another out of the Moscow river make you want to heave.

Ukraine currently 31 degrees in the shade and plus 40 in the sun, combines going flat out.

Weather and harvest update

Hot, dry and sunny, clear blue skies, 28 degrees, some localised overnight showers.

Forecast is for continued settled weather over the weekend, perfect harvest weather.

Combines started this morning and look set to have a clear run for the next few days.

Q: How do you stop a charging bull? A: Take away his credit card.

Paris wheat for November 166.50 EUR; London 146.28 EUR. Local prices for oilseed rape went up 100 UAH (9.94 EUR) overnight and looks set to continue climbing.

Where will it all end? Probably in tears but let’s enjoy it for now.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

It’s all gone crazy!

"The "crazy" rapeseed market hitting its highest for nearly two years" according to Agrimoney.
Crazy for whom? Not crazy for the me I can tell you; “much appreciated” would be how I describe it.

This latest report is on the back of Germany cutting harvest estimates and the ongoing reports of catastrophe in Russia; have a look at the (rather amateurish) Russia Today report posted by Nogger on his blog (here).

Agrimoney go on with "...the crop downgrades just keep coming, and that is maintaining investors' interest [in wheat]," a City analyst told Agrimoney.com.

A City analyst? That's a bit vague isn’t it?

My mate down the "all you can eat and drink, borsche and vodka bar", Fat Yuri reckons that as we enter the second phase of the European harvest the market will definitely turn in to a fully justified rally and the full picture of how the winter and more recent weather has downgraded harvest potential in Central and Eastern Europe will finally fully reveal itself.

That’s what Fat Yuri told me anyway.

How much?

Paris rapeseed for August delivery hits 360.50 EURO a tonne. Latest local price just short of 3000 UAH (298 EURO) so we have a long way to go yet.

Another hot and sunny day in Kiev

Blue skies and 28 degrees already and it will get hotter as the day progresses. Rain still forecast with localised showers popping up.

Combined in to the night, unverified oilseed rape coming in at 2t.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Weathermen, pah!

The torrential rain as forecast by the weathermen failed to materialise and combines have been moving today.

I tell you what, it’s a good job we don’t plan our lives around these weathermen muppets or we wouldn’t get anything done.

I blame Michael Fish. In 1987 he famously said: "Earlier on today a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching love, don't worry, there isn't!".

Hours later the worst storm since 1703 hit Britain, flattened millions of trees and killed 18 people.

Ever since weather forecasters have been erring on the side of catastrophe just in case.


Currently warm and sunny in Kiev with localised rain in various regions.

It’s been very wet in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, APK are reporting an estimated 30% loss to barley and a reduction in the quality of the wheat.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Weather & harvest update

Localised showers and heavy rain delaying harvest.

Where it remains dry combines are cutting rape at around 11%mc.

Oilseed rape currently going for 2,850UAH at 8%mc and 2% admix. I reckon that's cheap and we should see a continued firming of that price.

Weather & harvest update

Overnight rain has left the crops wet and no combining likely to start before later this afternoon at the earliest.

Forecast is for a wet week with heavy rain over most parts of Ukraine.

Spain reign

Congratulations Spain, a well deserved result. See you at Euro 2012 to be held in Poland and Ukraine if they can get the stadiums built in time.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Light rain...

...has stopped combining for the day, forecast is for better weather tomorrow when we should resume play.

Might as well watch the WC final with two LFC players and one English ref making an appearance.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Rain data so far

Here's the cumulative rainfall for Central Ukraine so far this season.

The above average data fits in with what we have experienced on the ground.

Ukraine not ready for harvest

Rumours persist that Ukraine might not actually be quite ready for harvest despite all the freshly filed Harvest Readiness Reports.


Warm and dry in Kiev at the moment but rain around the regions has stalled combining for the time being. We are hoping to get started later today if the rain stays off.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Four million tonnes and counting

The ministry are reporting 4.0MMT of grains from 1.651 million hectares as of today. That's some 2.4t/ha.

This time last year they reported 6.5MMT harvested.

Hold your horses

Rape is not as dry as I thought it should be given the hot, dry weather we have had theses last few weeks.

We took a combine in to a field this afternoon and I would have put my house on it being ready but it came out at 18%mc.

This is probably why we haven't spied (probably shouldn't use that word given the latest cold war games in the US) many combines around at the moment.

It's raining in the south and harvest has stopped.

Harvest update

First field of oilseed rape was finished last night and came off at 2.5t/ha which is way above the average being reported elsewhere.

Waiting to start again this morning, combines about to roll, I will let you know how we get on by this evening.

A solution to the criminals currently masquerading as rozzers*?

Georgia: Hassle from the police stopping drivers and demanding usually $100 or more became so bad a few years ago that something had to be done.

The USA and EU funded a complete new road traffic police force in secret and then the Government sacked the entire traffic police force overnight and replaced them. Now they are helpful and courteous and, of course, have much better salaries and equipment.

What a great idea which should be implemented in Ukraine.

*A British term. Originally Rossers referring to when a Police officer would Report on Summons hence ROS, changed to ROZZERS for ease of pronunciation.

Kazakhstan yields down

There is talk of 30% reduction in grain yields.

I have a mate who is working in Kazakhstan and he keeps me informed of what he’s up to and he says it has been very dry this spring and the crops look very thin.

Coupled with recent high temperatures and it’s not surprising yield forecasts are being downgraded.

Here's a picture of some Kazakh wheat. Before you go and panic buy on the back of it just remember that good Kazakh wheat doesn't look much better, it always is a thin crop. It's sown late, has about 100 days to grow in and yields 1.5 to 2.0t but you have loads of space to grow the stuff in.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Harvest update from Europe

My mate Jim who farms in Romania and has just driven back to France from there sent me some very interesting observations.

First off Romania. He said “harvest is just starting, rape was being cut at 11% and was very variable. Wheat is looking ok but summer grasses are appearing where it’s thin or in dirty ground. Maize and sunflowers that were early planted looked superb.”

On the Hungarian Romanian border he said “they have had it very wet and I saw 3 lovely Claas combines all stuck in the same field. The rape and wheat that was close to being ready had pools of water in many of the low spots and there were a few asphyxiated crops of maize and sunflowers, yuk!”

In Austria he noted barley had just been cut and in Germany most crops were not ready though they looked best of any – unlike last nights football team – with just enough lodging to suspect they had put enough N on! Germany efficiency at its best.

The crappy crops in the East of France that he saw in the spring looked a lot better.

Back home in France six row winter barley was cut yesterday - 7t/ha at 11.5 to 12.5% mc 68 to 69 PS.

He will be back in Romania next week, I for one look forward to another update. Much appreciated, cheers Jim.


I see a lot of patchy yellowing that looks like nitrogen deficiency but I’m not so sure. I think it could be a micro nutrient issue, boron perhaps, possibly brought on by soil structure problems.

Here's a crop of "I can't believe it's not GM" soya.


...are a flippin' tall crop. Now I'm not small, probably about average in height you might say, but these sunflowers are massive and despite their nice serene image they are bloody painful to walk through, right scratchy buggers they are.


I've got a brand new combine harvester...

...and I'll give you the key. One for the machinery heads, here is a New Holland CX8080 filmed earlier today doing what it's designed to do.

I have just driven 300km across central Ukraine and for the record I only saw one other combine working.

Oilseed rape first harvest

Here it is, the first tank full of black gold.

This came off at an estimated 2.4t with 9% m.c. Pretty good eh?

OK, so it's early days yet and I would be foolish to think it will all be like this but I still reckon my oilseed rape will be above average.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


I am hearing some interesting reports from Russia that suggest a much reduced harvest estimate mainly due to poor spring planting but also the recent hot and dry weather.

Fits in with my mates reports and his photo I posted the other day.

Weather & harvest update

Warm, blue skies, looks like it will be a hot day.

Central Ukraine has seen some thin oilseed rape cut along with headlands in wheat (usually done as a fire precaution) and some fields of barley.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Oi, ref!

Pierluigi Collina has signed a two-year contract to sort out refereeing in Ukraine which had been plagued by scandals and poor decisions.

Pity he wasn’t engaged to sort out the rozzers which is beset with similar issues.

Harvest update; early performance figures

I wouldn’t pay too much attention to these harvest figures as reported from the Ministry of Agriculture but for the record here they are:


The Kyiv Post is quoting the Ministry at 1.77 MMT of grain from 72,000 hectares. Tut, tut Kyiv Post, 1.77 MMT from 72,000 ha will give 24 MT per hectare. Shurely shome mishtake?


I guess they mean 2.4 MT per hectare which would be about right.


Oilseed rape is coming in at 1.4 MT per hectare which isn’t too bad but as my old school reports used to say “plenty of room for improvement”.

Central European Russian wheat

Have a look at this; it's a crop of Russian wheat from a couple of days ago.

It looks like reports of drought and high temperature has not been over exaggerated. I would be surprised if harvest will be as upbeat as some suggest based on the reports my contacts have given me.

Weather & harvest update

Warm and sunny with blue skies this morning, overnight rain cooled things down but it looks set for another hot day.

Combines will need to wait for the overnight rain and dew to burn off which shouldnt't take too long.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Is that glowing green stuff on my lamb really mint sauce?

Scottish sheep are now safe to eat and no longer radioactive from Chornobyl fall out, apparently.

Two decades after reactor #4 went fizz, bang the radiation levels in Scottish sheep has finally dropped to below the safety limits.

Chornobyl was 1600km away from Scotland, Sellafield is about 160km away, hmmm.


Can I hear champagne corks popping’?

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are lending NIBULON Ltd $50 million to build grain storage and handling facilities along the Dnieper River.
All I can say is congratulations to all concerned!

Congratulations to Nibulon for having the necessary ability and stamina to access EBRD funds - no mean feat in itself - and congratulations to the EBRD for having the balls to fund primary industry development in the face of an economic downturn.

Not satisfied with that the EBRD are apparently looking to loan $50 million to MHP, $10 million to Astarta and $50 million to Mriya.


Weather update

It has started lashing it down.

Weather & harvest update

Rumbling with thunder; electricity in the air; hot, humid, and very sticky; threatening to lash it down at any minute.

Forget your preconceptions of Eastern European cold and perpetual snow, the weather at this time of the year is scorchio.

They even ban lorries from the centre of Kiev as the tarmac is melting.

Early harvest reports have OSR moisture content between 9 and 14%.

The IMF...

...have agreed a $15 billion Stand-by-Arrangement or loan to you and me. Which I think is good news but like all loans they do have to be paid back.

As you would expect there is a whole load of caveats attached but as the IMF seems rather toothless I suspect this amounts to very little.

Weather & harvest update

Currently warm and sunny in Kiev but the forecast suggests showers and sun in most regions becoming more settled later in the week.

Combines have started working in central regions this weekend.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Watch Hillary Clinton’s speech at Kiev Polytechnic…

…all sixteen minutes of it here if your interested. Nothing particularly controversial, usual guff about enhancing democracy and removing corruption, no mention of agriculture and she didn’t answer any of my questions!

Glenda Jackson once visited my local Polytechnic in Birkenhead.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Harvest readiness update...

It's raining cats and dogs!

We just had the mother of rainstorms come through Kiev, not what you want hitting brittle oilseed rape pods days away from harvest, never mind the wheat

There was even some hail mixed in with the rain.

This is the view off my balcony not half an hour ago, isn't technology brilliant! Make sure you sing "rain drops keep falling on my head" as you watch to get the full experience.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Dear Secretary of State

I sent a question to US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton if she would ask the President of Ukraine, Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych when they meet tomorrow, about the general lack of support for agriculture in Ukraine, the burdensome bureaucracy and the command led mentality coming out of the Ministry of Agriculture.


Well I thought if Kyiv is going to be in lock down and the streets closed to traffic I thought I would try and get a question asked for my inconvenience.


I will let you know if I receive an answer but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Ukraine ready for harvest, almost

But for a couple of minor technical glitches. They should be fixed in a jiffy.

Ukraine ready for harvest, official

The continued interference and controlling nature of the min of ag continues unabated as farms are asked to produce a harvest readiness reports, which is pretty much what it says it is.

"A report on the condition and readiness of machinery and buildings prior to the start of harvest."

With the risk of banging the same old drum, my question is “what’s it got to do with you?”

If we say that we haven’t sufficient trucks to keep up with the combines, will they supply us with more? If we say our buildings are porous, rat infested derelict wrecks are they going to help us fix them? I’m guessing here but I think the answer is a resounding no.

So why the blessed report?