Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Crop Tour II bus gets back on the road

Busy week, so much going on, so little time to write about it, so I’ll be brief.

Russian Crop Tour II complete, 2,200km through Russia’s grain belt, hundreds of assessment’s taken, analysing results now, winter grains in variable condition, some good, some bad, weather is playing a major part, autumn weather still having a significant impact, spring plantings variable, some OK, some bad, a lot of quality issues related to planting, weather will play a major part, very little disease, some pests, weeds starting to get ahead.

Tomorrow we kick off Ukraine Crop Tour II, back in the car, driving and assessing from dawn to dusk, we will dig holes to look at the soil profile and moisture, we will count plants and take samples to determine yields of winter and spring cereals, we will measure and assess spring planted crops, we will photograph everything, we will record, we will form an opinion, we tweet everything we see, we will report, we will send that report to all the great and clever and attractive people who had the foresight to sign up and support the only independent in depth study of crop conditions in Ukraine and Russia.

There is still time to sign up to the tour and become clever and attractive and support us in our endeavour to inform and bring light to the darkness of confusion.

Right lads, stop crying and get back on the bus.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Latest Russian spring plantings

The Russian Ministry of Agriculture reports that spring sowing stand at 46.7 million hectares or 90% of the forecast (46.8mha in 2014).

This includes 28.5mha of spring grain crops or 92% of the forecast (29.3mha in 2014).

Plantings seem to be catching up with last year apart from spring barley which if that is still going in now won’t amount to much.

Here are the numbers which are also in the chart with last years position for comparison which should expand if you click on it.

Spring wheat ​​12.2mha (93%); spring barley ​​7.6mha (93%); sunflower ​​6.6mha (100%); corn ​​2.7mha (95%); soybeans ​​1.7mha (81%).

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ukraine spring planting officially finished

Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture has declared the 2015 spring planting campaign finished.

With a total (spring and winter) crop standing at an impressive, considering the circumstances, 26.5mha which is almost equal to last year as previously suggested it would be on this blog.

But I bet if you had a quick drive around Ukraine you’d still see some tractors working in the field.

This is because although the Minister has said spring planting is finished (right about when he predicted it would be two weeks ago) and he really believes it to be the case, here’s how it actually works.

The Ministry of Agriculture shout at the regional head to speed up planting in his region and finish according to the plan.  The regional head calls the farm director in to his office and shouts at him while waving a piece of paper with a league table of plantings for all the farms in the region pointing out he is in the relegation zone or there about.  The farm director patiently points out that all machines are working at full capacity and planting will be finished within an agronomically acceptable planting window.  The regional head starts turning red in the face and shouts that this isn't good enough while spittle flies out of his mouth, they need to finish now, the Ministry has told him so, his job is on the line.  The farm director suggests that if he reports they have finished planting would that help.  The regional head is ecstatic with this idea, calms down immediately and beams from ear to ear.  After much handshaking and general bonhomie the farm director is bid farewell.  The regional director reports to the Ministry that planting is now finished.  The Minister of Agriculture declares planting to be complete.  Meanwhile Yuri is still planting the last of the corn.

True story.

Ukraine, Russia & other places mid-week review

Russia is to keep the ban on supply of food products imposed in August 2014 but as I anticipated will relax the list with some adjustments.

No radical changes are planned according Vice Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich yesterday.

But imagine for a minute if the reasons for the ban was removed then Russia would have no case in keeping them, then the WTO might step in.

Does this mean that Russia’s food production policy is now subject to decisions made in Washington and Brussels?

Russia spring grains plantings stand at 27.2mha or 88% of the plan which is down around 5% on last year.  Hidden in that figure is a drop of 1.7mha of spring wheat and barley.

Ukraine spring grains and pulses plantings stand at 6.7mha or 99% of the plan which is down around 10% on last year.

Kazakhstan spring plantings stand at 9.1mha or 62% of the plan, down a whopping 30% on last year and given the 100 odd day growing season that isn't going to improve now.

Tajikistan completed spring crops planting with 122kha which is up 15% on the plan which says so much for “the plan”, plus they planted an additional 189kha of industrial crops.

Ukraine’s agricultural input costs increased by 63% compared with last year.

Ukraine requires $2.7 billion to upgrade its grain handling and storage facilities according to Oleg Nivevsky, Agricultural Policy Advisor at the World Bank Group who went on to say the logistics costs in Ukraine are 40% of the export price compared with 10% in France and the US. 

I thought the US and EU directly and indirectly subsidised the cost of grain export, I wonder if they extend that courtesy to Ukraine?

The heatwave forecast for much of Russia came and went and probably did some yield damage along the way, high temperatures does odd things to plants particularly at sensitive ear development stages.

Cooler temperatures and rain over the weekend are holding off any problems for now although Moldova is reporting drought stress in developing spring crops.

Russia is resolutely sticking with a 100mmt harvest and possibly more, the feeling here on the ground is when harvest starts in the south next week yields will be above average and the Ministry, giddy with excitement will probably up that 100mmt only for yields to start dropping as harvest moves north.

Ukraine are all over the place with their harvest call estimates ranging from 55 to 62mmt with the last official ministry figure standing at a still optimistic 59mmt.

Quote of the week goes to Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture when he referred to the ministry as a three headed dragon which needs its heads chopping off then not allowed to become an octopus or words to that effect.

Crop Tour II kicks off this weekend with a brief 2,000km tour around Russia then on to Ukraine, drop me a line if you would like to sign up and let’s face it we are the only ones supplying such a service so why wouldn't you?

I'm off to pack a bag.

Latest USDA weather update

Western FSU

Increasing showers over western and southern portions of the region contrasted with hot, dry
conditions in eastern growing areas.

Moderate to heavy showers (10-95 mm) associated with a slow-moving storm system developed from Ukraine and Belarus into north-western Russia, boosting soil moisture for heading winter grains as well as emerging spring grains, corn, and sunflowers.

However, rain bypassed areas from Moldova northward through-west-central Ukraine, enabling fieldwork but reducing topsoil moisture for summer crops.

In southern Russia, increasing rainfall (10-30 mm) eased concerns over short-term dryness and improved prospects for flowering to filling winter wheat.

Although this week’s rain missed the Krasnodar Oblast in the southwestern corner of the Southern District, heavy showers and thunderstorms (25-50 mm) developed over this key wheat area at the end of the period (May 31 – June 1).

Meanwhile, sunny skies and daytime temperatures in the lower to middle 30s (degrees C) increased stress on filling winter crops from the southern Central District into the southern Volga District, though the greatest heat (34- 36°C) was generally outside of major winter wheat areas.

Eastern FSU

A much-needed break from recent heavy rain arrived in central and western spring wheat areas.

A very wet May concluded with a welcomed respite in northern Kazakhstan and the southern Urals District in Russia, with rainfall during the monitoring period generally totalling less than 5 mm.

Producers in these locales have struggled to plant spring wheat, as preliminary estimates for May indicated rainfall totalled 200 to 350 percent of normal for the month.

In contrast, 10 to 50 mm of rain (locally more) improved soil moisture for spring wheat establishment in the Siberia District, particularly in southern growing areas (Altai Krai Oblast).

Meanwhile, mostly sunny skies promoted the development of recently-planted cotton across Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, though variable light to moderate showers (1-15 mm) reduced irrigation requirements.