Sunday, 19 May 2013

Ukraine and Russia crop and weather update

Reports of improved chances of rain in the FSU came true this week as light to moderate rain fell in parts of western Ukraine.

Eastern Ukraine and Russia remained dry with farmers in the regions telling me winter wheat is now in ear and starting to show visible signs of drought stress.

Substantial rains expected for Russia's southern district will help newly planted maize and sunflowers but will have a limited effect on these crops approaching the reproductive phase.

Talking of rape, it might just be me but all the stuff I have seen between Lviv in the west and Chernigov in the north looks a bit sickly.

Like that pale, runty kid who shuffled about at school perpetually sniffling and dribbling in to a snot rag.  It's all there just a bit weedy looking.

I'm putting it down to plants running out of steam in the longer than usual winter and it's taking longer than usual to bounce back.

The problem now is that the time left to bounce back is getting less with every day so the bounce will not be as high as we would have hoped.  I am anticipating a yield penalty.

Although corn and sunflower plantings have picked up the pace the Ministry of Agrarian Policy might be jumping the gun when they reported this week that 4.6min ha of maize (97% of the plan), 3.9min ha of sunflowers (99% of the plan) and 1.25min ha of soya (87%) had been planted.

Which for no reason at all reminds me of the story about the talented soviet aircraft designer Oleg Antanov who when looking to reduce weight on one of his aircraft designs decided not unreasonably to replace the four stroke back up generator with a lighter two stroke version.

When party officials got wind of this they told comrade Antanov that the step from four stroke to two stroke was too radical and revolutionary and insisted he used a three stroke engine instead!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Ukraine spring crops update

May and summer is well and truly here. 

The season went from deep winter to summer completely bypassing spring all in the space of a couple of weeks.

The end of March saw the mercury at minus 20 Celsius yet by the end of the April daytime highs were just short of 30 Celsius. 

Minus 20 to plus 29 in 30 days.  No wonder the roads are crap.

The meter deep snow that was present in April rapidly disappeared and slide off through the soil profile never to be seen again.

Field work started by the second week of April with planting underway by the third.

By the first week of May analysts started ringing the alarm bells that the ensuing drought was going to harm Ukraine's previously (like two weeks previously) forecasted record yields and unless it rained quickly famine was sure to follow.

Yet a quick look at the met data shows rainfall and soil moisture at or above the average so go figure.

On the ground no one is complaining of dry conditions just yet - apart from those in the East and South but they all ways do so there's no news there.

Winter conditions even with the late start have been favourable and most crops survived with negligible levels of winter kill; which means there isn't going to be a big upswing in spring planted crops particularly export friendly corn and barley.

Clear weather ahead means corn, sunflower and soya plantings are rapidly catching up, no doubt we will need some rain soon but it usually arrives at some point.

Prices have been buoyant of late with all the major commodities fetching prices at or very near to five year highs.  Is this the year farmers make money?

The Ukrainian China trade deal has started to take effect with local administrations now tasked with the job of sourcing 5mmt of corn to send to China by the end of the year.  The deal is the Ukrainian government will pay the farmer 700uah/mt (that's about €66 but likely to be a lot less once the hryvna devalues which is expected any time soon) and the balance based on the market value at delivery. 

No specific mention of when that balance will actually be paid.

The fertiliser supply chain issues seems to have righted itself just in the nick of time with fertiliser now turning up on farms as its being spread.

In summary, crops are looking good, summer is here, roads are still crap!

As another season gets underway I wish good luck to all farmers and use the quote that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but everyday, three times a day you need a farmer.