Thursday, 15 January 2015

A look back at 2014 and a peek forward to 2015

Its’s that time of the year to look back at the previous twelve months and to take a peek forward at what the next twelve might bring.

Despite political events and losing big chunks of farmland to aggressive neighbours and locals with aspirations for separatism, Ukraine’s harvest was big.  

The weather was favourable with plenty of soil moisture in the spring and plenty of rain through the growing season.  Final figures for Ukraine’s H14 stands at 63mmt including 24mmt of wheat, 9mmt of barley and 28mmt of maize.

Russia’s weather was less favourable.  Drought was a problem from the outset and through the rest of the season although the final harvest wasn't too bad considering with agrarians bringing in 110mmt including 62mmt of wheat, 21mmt of barley and 11mt of maize.

To put that in context the UK had a blinder of a harvest with 25mmt including 17mmt of wheat and 7mmt of barley.

This year Russian wheat did around 2.5mt/ha and while Ukraine was better than it has been for some time at 4.0mt/ha it is still a long way off this year’s UK record 8.6mt/ha (or the ten year average 7.7mt/ha).

Yet it would be entirely possible to see a 20%, 30% or greater average yield increase within a few seasons through some fairly straightforward, simple and achievable changes to the production process.

This is more likely to occur in Ukraine than Russia primarily because in addition to the better climate (rainfall) EU and US funds have poured in albeit with conditions.  

Depending on your political point of view those conditions could be the long overdue catalyst that reboots Ukraine in to the agricultural power house it should be.

I can see a situation in Ukraine where the current crisis is stabilised and consequently and relatively quickly the business climate and corporate responsibility issues improve, corruption is contained and land tenure is sorted thus opening the door to a tenfold increase in inward agri-investments.  Maybe not all in 2015 but soon.

Without a doubt 2015 will be a difficult farming year in Ukraine as high inflation, foreign exchange and interest rates coupled with a lack of credit will make getting a crop in the ground this coming spring somewhat challenging.

But given support and sensible decisions from Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food located on Kiev’s Khreshchatyk Street overlooking the site of last year’s demonstrations and shootings, then Ukraine agriculture might just start to step up.

Here’s to a happier new year.