Russian Rains Put Grain Record in Doubt as Sowing Slows

  • Rainfall reached six times normal level in parts of country
  • Downpour raises concern that fungal diseases will hurt crop

Downpours in Russia’s main grain-growing areas are hampering sowing and casting doubt over expectations the country will reap a record harvest this year.

Much of central and southern Russia was deluged with two to six times normal rains in May, according to World Ag Weather data. That slowed corn planting and meant farmers missed the best time for sowing, said Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at consultant SovEcon in Moscow.

Corn acreage probably won’t reach the 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) expected by the Agriculture Ministry, said the company, which is preparing to update its estimate.

“There’s too much rain,” Sizov said by phone. “Planting all but stopped in the center. If rains continue, there will be no record” grain crop, he said.

Market researcher OOO ProZerno, based in Moscow, is among those forecasting the biggest-ever harvest. It sees production of 109.3 million metric tons, with rains helping yields, even as acreage is reduced. The Institute for Agricultural Market Studies pegs output at 107 million tons, below 2008’s record 108.2 million tons. The rains won’t reduce expectations for the crop, Russia’s Tass news service reported Deputy Agriculture Minister Dzhambulat Khatuov as saying Thursday.

Revised Estimates

The consultants all raised their estimates for wheat output in May because of better-than-expected conditions for the cereal, which farmers sowed in autumn. SovEcon made the boldest forecast, predicting the crop will exceed the current record of 63.8 million tons without giving a specific number.

Continued rain is raising concerns that excessive moisture means the wheat will suffer from fungal diseases such as rust, smut, mildew, mold and root rot, according to MDA Information Systems Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The situation echoes conditions in France where a deluge of rain hit wheat fields in the past month. Harvesting of wheat is expected to start at the end of June in southern Russia, and in July in France.

So much rainfall across parts of Ukraine and southern and central Russia is “definitely unusual for this time of year,” Donald Keeney, a meteorologist at MDA, said by e-mail.

For more Black Sea grain news:

  • Ukraine’s corn sowing is ahead of last year’s rate, according to Kiev-based market researcher UkrAgroConsult.
  • Planting is faster even with the plentiful rains over eastern Ukraine indicated by World Ag Weather data.
  • Farmers sowed 4.3 million hectares with the crop, or 97 percent of the intended area, by May 27, up 4.2 million hectares from a year earlier, the company said.
  • The weather was “ideal” for wheat in Ukraine, according to Tetiana Adamenko, head of the agriculture department at the National Weather Center in Kiev.
  • The center pegged its crop estimate at 23 million tons last week, saying it was more than most other estimates.
  • Wheat yields in Romania, also favored by rains in May, may surpass the record levels of more than 4.5 tons a hectare this year, Laurentiu Baciu, president of the Bucharest-based League of Romanian Farmers Associations, said last week.
  • The International Grains Council raised its forecast for the country’s crop to 7.3 million tons in a monthly report last week, from 7 million tons in April.


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