Russian Winter Grain Crop May Fall as Plantings Fail to Sprout

The condition of winter crops in Russia, the world’s third-biggest wheat exporter last season, is raising concerns about next season’s harvest after up to a quarter of plantings in major growing regions failed to sprout.

“Southern winter crops’ condition is better than last year, but is worse than average,” said Oleg Sukhanov, grain analyst at the Moscow-based Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, known as Ikar. “There won’t be any record yields next year because there are problems.”

About 20 percent to 25 percent of winter grains in the Krasnodar, Rostov and Stavropol regions, which are the country’s three major growing and exporting areas, may be lost as their seeds haven’t sprouted yet after dry weather in September and October, Sukhanov said by phone in Moscow today. Recent rains this month may improve the situation, he said. The average loss is about 7 percent to 10 percent.

The three regions accounted for 29 percent of Russia’s grain crop in 2011 after 27.3 million metric tons of cereals were harvested, according to the state statistics data. They were affected by drought this year and farmers had to seed winter grains for the 2013-14 crop in dry soil in the past two months, Sukhanov said.

Winter plantings in parts of the neighboring Volga Federal District are also weak on dry weather, while they are good in the fertile black-earth regions in Russia’s center, he said.

The government planned to ensure a stronger winter crop for the 2013-14 season by increasing the sowing area this autumn to 16.8 million hectares (41 million acres) from 16.1 million hectares in 2011. However, the target hasn’t been met after farmers planted 15.6 million hectares with winter grains by Nov. 7, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday.

Winter grains’ sowing is done and expected to be on about 15.8 million hectares, although the final figures aren’t available yet, Sukhanov said.

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