Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Wet weather continued, with rain in southern crop areas contrasting with additional snow in central and northern portions of the region.

Precipitation (liquid equivalent) during the period totaled 15 to 50 mm, sustaining adequate to abundant moisture reserves for spring growth.

There were no concerns of winterkill due to a moderation in temperatures, with most winter wheat areas reporting nighttime lows above -20°C.

In areas where bitter cold was reported (Central and Volga Districts) a moderate to deep snowpack (10-60 cm) remained in place.

However, snow cover has melted from southern Ukraine into the North Caucasus District in southern Russia, leaving southern crop areas exposed to potential incursions of bitter cold.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Melted snow in parts of Ukraine leave crops exposed

Rain and warmer temperatures in southern Ukraine melted snow that fell last week leaving already struggling crops vulnerable and exposed to low temperatures.

Forecast are indicating low temperatures towards the end of next week with only light snow on offer which will not provide much in the way of protection.

Current winter wheat conditions in eastern Ukraine is being described as not good and daily temperature fluctuations are giving wheat yield and quality a hard time.

Further south and farmers are putting about 70% of wheat is in good condition with replanting’s possibly at 20% and winter wheat production down 20-40% on last year.

Farmers are talking of replanting with sunflower and corn rather than spring cereals but cash flow issues will dictate what can actually be planted.

I haven’t yet had it confirmed but I believe it is a similar situation in parts of southern Russia with warmer weather and rain melting snow although crops there are in a better condition and will be able to withstand all colder weather better.

Last weeks Black Sea agri-news

Last week was a quiet news week in the Black Sea region as businesses and government departments shut down for the orthodox Christmas holiday.

The main story was the weather as low temperatures and patchy snow left some crops exposed to an increased risk of winter kill.

Some crops in south and east Ukraine and central Russia had to endure very low temperatures with no snow cover and some damage will have been done but the market seemed happy to take the satellite data at face value and decide it wasn't an issue.

What seemed to happen was the data indicated that it was snowing but didn't take into account that the actual amount of lying snow was less than 3cm and insufficient when night-time temperatures dipped to -22oC.

By midweek plenty of snow had fallen and temperatures lifted alleviating any further risk for now but also covering up any damage which we won’t be able to assess until the spring Crop Tour scheduled for end of March.

Although markets remain resolutely bearish there are plenty of commentators making bullish weather related references including UkrAgroConsult who reported Ukrainian wheat exports are likely to drop sharply next MY on the back of reduced plantings and the poor start to the growing season.

Also worth keeping in mind there is still a lot of winter to go before crops are safe and I am now hearing concern in some regions that increasing temperatures might reduce snow cover and expose crops to the next wave of cold weather forecast for next week.

Meanwhile in other news, the Ukraine-EU free trade agreement came into force which eliminates tariffs on 97% of Ukrainian goods including some grains & food products.

Ukraine's ministry of agriculture continue their bullish position saying they will support the restoration of irrigation systems and are ready to establish transparent and clear tariffs to encourage inward investment.

Over in Russia the ministry of agriculture appeared to start the holiday early releasing very little news outside the standard “everything is great” press releases including milk production up 2.2% on last year, eggs up 3% and poultry 8.6%.

The babycham might have been opened a little early in one department when it was reported that Russia is contemplating prohibiting state purchases of imported agricultural machinery as ministries look to extend the import substitution policy.

However the same department conceded that it was probably unworkable anyway as imported components are used extensively in domestic machinery fabrication but I bet it still made a few at John Deere miss a heartbeat.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Black Sea weather view

The market might not consider current weather in the Black Sea region to be a problem but there are plenty that do.  Here are a few (paraphrased) soundbites from this last week:

Snow cover across Ukraine and parts of Russia is lower than the "magic number" of 10 cm for sufficient cold protection…this should not be an issue for at least the next two weeks as temperatures look to remain above dangerous levels…long range models indicate the chances for a deep freeze toward the end of January.

Lack of snow in the north-eastern and south-western regions of Belarus complicates the agrometeorological conditions. Lowering of air temperature to 14-15°C below zero and absence of snow cover may damage plants of the least frost-resistant crop – winter rapeseed.

Head of grain processing enterprise, Stavropol, Russia
30% of all planted areas of the grain in our oblast are in unfavourable condition…it will be necessary to replant winter wheat throughout at least 20% of the general planted areas.

Head of flour milling enterprise, Tambov, Russia
65% of winter wheat areas are in good and satisfactory condition…according to our agronomists, it will be necessary to replant at least 25-30% of winter wheat areas.

Head of grain processing enterprise, Saratov, Russia
If we estimate losses, we should note that nearly 30% of winter wheat areas were damaged…according to our preliminary data, replanting of winter wheat will total nearly 30-50%.

Zoe Shoesmith, grain trader, Frontier Agriculture
Overall, the supply and demand picture is still the main driver for wheat markets, but there are some weather issues around the world which will be closely watched, including cold weather in the Black Sea regions and the possible impact of any winterkill.

Joel Durkin, Business and data analyst, Farmers Guardian
Impact of winterkill in the Black Sea region could affect markets and should be closely monitored.

Farm Credit Canada
Weather in Russia & Ukraine could lower wheat production & have a positive impact on demand for Canadian wheat.

BBC Weather
Eastern Europe is normally cold at this time of year - but last night's temperatures were exceptional (down to -23C).

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Ukraine and Russian crop risk receding as more snow falls

Snow is falling over much of Russia (pictured earlier today) and Ukraine and temperatures have lifted meaning the threat of further crop damage is receding, at least until the next significant cold spell.

Although the market didn’t react to reports of elevated crop risk in parts of Russia and Ukraine, I believe we will have seen some damage when low temperatures occurred before sufficient snow had fallen.

This is particularly true in regions where crops had been struggling in dry planting conditions such as in south and eastern Ukraine.

What we also learnt is that it is difficult to follow weather events from a distance as the satellite data doesn’t necessarily match up with what we see on the ground.

The amount of damage while significant is probably within normal levels of winter kill which usually fluctuate around 5-15% but the truth is we won’t be able to assess the full impact until the spring.

Furthermore there is still a lot of winter to go so things could be very different come March, indeed forecasters are already predicting colder than average temperatures towards the end of this month.

To this end and following on from last year’s inaugural and successful Ukraine and Russian Crop Tours, we will be running more tours during 2016 with the first event taking place end of March to assess the post winter crop condition.

We will be doing things slightly differently from last season having learnt a lot from our pilot year and will continue to develop and extend the service as funding allows.

More details to follow.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

After nearly two months of anomalous warmth kept the region uncharacteristically devoid of snow cover, timely snowfall accompanied the arrival of late-week bitter cold.

In Ukraine, the snow was sufficient (2-10 cm) to prevent widespread winterkill, as night-time lows plunged as low as -26°C at week’s end; however, there may have been some localized burnback where snow cover was shallow (less than 2 cm).

Heavier snow (10-25 cm, locally more) in southern Russia afforded dormant winter grains abundant insulation from readings as low as -22°C.

Despite the ongoing arctic blast, the overall impacts - if any - of the severe cold will remain minor as long as the snowpack remains intact.

*Picture central Russia yesterday