Russian Sugar Production Seen Below Ikar Forecast After Drought

Russian beet-sugar production in the coming season will be lower than forecast in June after a drought last year prompted farmers to switch to other crops, the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies said.

Output will be 3.85 million metric tons for the 2013-14 season starting Aug. 1 in Russia, below the prior 4.2 million-ton projection, said Evgeny Ivanov, an analyst at Moscow-based Ikar, as the institute is known. Sugar imports will come to 850,000 tons, exceeding the previous estimate by 50,000 tons, he said by phone today.

The area sown with beets shrank to about 910,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) for the 2013 crop from 1.1 million hectares in the prior period after a drought last year lifted grain prices to records in Russia, according to Ivanov. Farmers opted to plant more profitable crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and legumes, he said.

“The sowing area under beets fell to a greater extent than we thought,” Ivanov said. Ikar estimated in March farmers would plant the roots on 970,000 hectares, he said.

Dryness this year also is poised to affect sugar output because it will reduce beet yields and the crop’s size, Ivanov said, without giving an estimate for the coming harvest. Russia produced 45 million tons of beets in 2012 at an average yield of 40.9 tons a hectare, according to government statistics.

“The weather is not quite favorable,” Ivanov said. “All regions except for the Black Earth strip will have smaller beet yields because of drought.”

Russia was the world’s biggest sugar importer from the 1990-91 season through 2004-05, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. The country produced a record 5.1 million tons of sweetener from beets in 2011-12 but reduced output to about 4.8 million tons for the current period because of limited processing capacity.

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