Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Russia harvest update

A cold front bringing wet weather and snow has slowed down harvest a little but then again it usually does this time of year so I wouldn't read too much into it.

Russia have currently harvested 107.3mmt of total grains and pulses in bunker weight from 42.9mha (95%) with an average yield of 2.50mt/ha.

Wheat 61.2mmt from 23.4mha (94%) with an average yield of 2.62mt/ha;

Barley 21.0mmt from 8.9mha (98%) with an average yield of 2.35mt/ha;

Corn 9.3mmt from 2.0mha (77%) with an average yield of 4.55mt/ha;

Sunflower 8.0mmt from 5.6mha (82%) with an average yield of 1.44mt/ha;

Oilseed rape 1.4mmt from 989kha (83%) with an average yield of 1.43mt/ha;

Soyabeans 2.2mmt from 1.6mha (83%) with an average yield of 1.36mt/ha.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

The coldest weather of the season settled over the region.

A strong cold front generated rain and wet snow over western and southern Russia as well as neighbouring portions of Ukraine and Belarus.

The moisture, which totalled more than 25 mm (liquid equivalent) in key winter wheat areas of southern Russia, was overall beneficial for vegetative winter grains and oilseeds.

However, temperatures behind the cold front averaged up to 5°C below normal, with the coldest conditions (night-time readings of -10°C or lower) in northern-most growing areas likely hastening winter crops into dormancy.

Even with some snow and cold, winter wheat in Russia’s Southern and North Caucasus Districts was not yet dormant.

In Ukraine, despite the changeable and unsettled weather, mostly dry conditions in north-central parts of the country facilitated corn and sunflower harvesting.

In contrast, winter wheat in southern Ukraine benefited from 10 to 25 mm (locally more) of rain.

Across the remainder of Russia, an early-season snowfall halted spring wheat harvesting in eastern portions of the country, while a sharp cold snap ended the growing season east of the Volga District.

Autumn planting nearly finished

The autumn planting season is nearing completion with reports that crops in some areas of eastern Russia are struggling in dry conditions.

Ukraine has planted 7.1mha of winter grains (94%) which is made up of 6.1mha of wheat and triticale, 845kha barley and 165kha rye.

Russian has planted 16.2mha of winter grains (98%), I’m still waiting for a breakdown of crops.

Meanwhile Kyrgyzstan has planted 54kha of winter grains (28%) including 50.6kha of wheat and 3.5kha of barley.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Russian harvest data confusion cleared up

Rosstat's Russian harvest figures in the previous posts were from the beginning of October which now makes perfect sense.  Thanks go to Damien from Inter-Courtage for clearing that up.

Must try harder.

Russia looks to India for milk

A team of experts from Russia are set to carry out inspections of milk processing units in India to explore the possibility of importing dairy products from them.

If successful exporting butter, cheese and milk powder could start by December.

This follows on from last month’s visit to Moscow by India’s commerce ministry who discussed resuming meat and dairy exports previously banned by Russia because of a foot and mouth outbreak years ago.

Good news for India perhaps but not what Russian domestic producers would want to hear as they looked to capitalise on the sanctions placed on US and EU supply’s.

Russian officials might be extolling the benefit sanctions will play in building local food production but they don’t seem to be doing anything to support it.

By looking to other countries to supply the immediate shortfall in supplies that sanctions have created they will be delaying further any investment in domestic production.

Ukraine harvest update

Ukraine has harvested 52.8mmt of grains and pulses from 13.0mha or 88% of the planned area (excluding Crimea) with an average total yield of 4.04mt/ha.

This is up on the same time last year when total yields were running at 3.68mt/ha.

Current figures breakdown as 16.4mmt of corn from 3.0mha (65%) with an average yield of 5.37mt/ha; 9.3mmt of sunflowers from 4.9mha (95%) with an average yield of 1.89mt/ha; 3.3mha soyabeans from 1.6mha (78%) with an average yield of 2.06mt/ha.

Harvest of buckwheat is now complete with 181kmt from 129kha giving an average yield of 1.39mt/ha.

Russia harvest update

According to Rosstat (the State Statistics Service) Russia has harvested 95.8mmt of grains.

This includes 41.6mmt of wheat with an average yield of 2.89mt/ha and 3.6mmt of corn with an average yield of 4.83mt/ha.

The thing is last week the Russian Min of Ag reported 60.9mmt of wheat with an average yield of 2.63mt/ha and 8.8mmt of corn with an average yield of 4.56mt/ha.

The difference in wheat could possibly be explained as winter and spring crop (unlikely) but corn?

I'm looking forward to the Min of Ags next report which might clear up the confusion.

Russia asking farmers to increase production

Russia is asking and presumably expecting farmers to increase domestic production to fill the gap left by banning imports from the US and EU.

However boosting output requires investment and no-one knows how long the import ban will be in place.

It is supposed to be for one year but as it was brought in overnight it equally could be lifted at the stroke of a pen.

This is not a situation that will encourage major investment.

What will be required is for tangible action to be put in place to tackle issues such as high interest rates and problematic regulations before significant investments will be made.

Then Russia might see businesses looking to take advantage of the situation.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Aphids in Ukraine and Russian winter wheat

Current weather conditions in Ukraine and Russia has been dry and unseasonably warm which will favour cold blooded aphids.

In warm weather aphids migrate into winter cereal crops and reproduce.

The issue with aphids this time of year is not injury from direct feeding but as they feed they introduce plant viruses much in the same way intravenous drug users do when sharing a needle.

They transmit barley yellow dwarf luteovirus (BYDV) and very low populations, which may go unnoticed, can cause economic damage.

The two aphids in question are Grain Aphid (sitobion avenae) and Bird Cherry-Oat Aphid (rhopalosiphum padi) both of which I have seen in Ukraine and Russian.

As yet have never met a local agronomist who knows what they are or could identify one.

These two aphids and the problem they cause have been well documented in Western Europe but I haven't seen any research data or information on control or thresholds in Ukraine or Russia.

I'm not saying it’s not there I just haven’t seen it or have been shown anything by local agronomists.

In the UK losses up to 2.5mt/ha have been recorded, losses in Ukraine and Russia might be low but they could be significant.

Control is based around imidacloprid seed treatment and autumn applications of pyrethroids, neither of which are currently done so if they are causing a problem they are not being controlled.

Ukraine wheat plantings may exceed the plan

The Ukraine Ministry of Agrarian Policy has declared winter wheat plantings may exceed the
original plan of 6.2mha due to favourable weather conditions and a good situation on the world market.

Before my kids came along I used to read books, one that has stayed in my memory and I occasionally quote from is Jeremy Paxman’s The Political Animal.

Paxman is an English journalist who worked for the BBC and his infamous interview when he asked the Home Secretary the same question 12 times in an unsuccessful attempt to get a straight answer gives you an inkling of what he’s like.

In his book he explains how he dislikes politicians because they would sell their grandmother to gain votes or parade their wife and kids in front of the press in a display of family unity the morning after they had been caught with their secretary if it meant it would save their job.

With that in mind let’s take another look at that statement from the Minister of Agriculture.

The Minister has declared that winter wheat plantings may exceed the original plan. 

That they might well do but what plan?  Prediction or forecast might be a better word although I think he may actually believe it’s a plan.

One of the biggest challenges Ukraine has is to shake off years of command led thinking which you can see in the steady flow of announcements and declarations about targets, plans and outputs.

The government pushes farms to follow policy but provides little incentive to do so, it uses threat that if you don’t do what we ask then we will cause problems elsewhere in your business.

For the last five or so years I have been told by local administrators that I must immediately farm livestock as it has been decided by central government and can I supply a business plan also immediately for the new dairy unit or pig farm.

(The trick here is to agree then do nothing, several months will go by until you’re called in to the office to be told off again, you apologies, say you’re working on it then do nothing, by the time it comes around again he’ll have been replaced and the whole cycle can start again.)

Favourable weather conditions? 

It’s been dry which means planting has progressed but that dryness needs some wetness to get crops up and ready for the winter.  Just because it’s dry and we are all planted up doesn't necessarily follow we would continue to plant more.  Generally that’s not how a farm works; we have a plan based on a rotation, machinery output, seeds and chems purchased, diesel ordered, budgets, cash flows, holidays and so on.

A good situation on the world market?

That’s not how I read the market; global grain surplus, multi-year low prices, input costs up.  My guess is the sensible route would be to hold additional winter plantings to see how the market develops by the spring and adapt accordingly.

In his book Paxman discovered that 60% of British Prime Ministers had lost one or both parents at a young age compared to the national average of 1%.
Not sure what that says about politicians but it screams something.

You can watch that Paxman interview here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

A mix of rain and snow (10-45 mm liquid equivalent) hampered spring wheat harvesting in northern Kazakhstan, as well as the Urals and Siberia Districts in Russia.

Early- to mid-week showers slowed fieldwork throughout the region.

At the end of the week, however, cold air accompanied another surge of moisture, causing the rain to change to snow in Russia and extreme northern Kazakhstan.

Accumulating snow was likely in these areas, halting spring wheat harvesting.

Temperatures averaged about 2 to 6°C below normal in Russia and extreme northern Kazakhstan.

Farther south, dry weather returned to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and eastern Uzbekistan, allowing cotton harvesting to accelerate in the wake of recent rain.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

In Ukraine and western Russia, unseasonably warm, showery weather (5-25 mm or more) favoured early winter wheat and barley development, aiding germination and emergence.

The showers likely slowed local fieldwork, including summer crop harvesting and additional winter grain planting.

The rain was overall beneficial, however, providing a welcome boost in topsoil moisture which will help with winter grain establishment.

Elsewhere in the region, mostly dry, unseasonably warm weather favoured summer crop harvesting in Belarus.

Temperatures in Belarus, Ukraine, and western Russia averaged about 3 to 6°C above normal, helping spur winter grain development.

Russia harvest update

Russia has harvested 106.2mmt of total grains and pulses in bunker weight from 42.4mha (94%) with an average yield of 2.50mt/ha.

This compares favourably with 2013 production figures (88.6mmt, 2.21mt/ha) and breaks down as follows:

Wheat 60.9mmt from 23.1mha (94%) with an average yield of 2.63mt/ha;

Barley 20.9mmt from 8.9mha (97%) with an average yield of 2.36mt/ha;

Corn 8.8mmt from 1.9mha (73%) with an average yield of 4.56mt/ha;

Sunflower 7.7mmt from 5.3mha (78%) with an average yield of 1.45mt/ha;

Oilseed rape 1.4mmt from 975kha (82%) with an average yield of 1.44mt/ha;

Soyabeans 1.9mmt from 1.4mha (72%) with an average yield of 1.36mt/ha.

Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation corn harvest estimate

Ukraine’s latest corn harvest update shows 14.7mmt of crop from 2.8mha (60%) with an average yield of 5.28mt/ha.

The Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation has estimated final harvest volumes will reach 27.0mmt.

That will require the yield to improve from the current average of 5.28mt/ha to 5.78mt/ha, an increase of 0.50mt/ha or 9%.

Except what is actually required is the remaining crop to be harvested (1.88mha) will need to average 6.54mt/ha.

Personally I don’t see that happening, in my experience yields tend to fall as you move on to the later planted crops and weather starts to have a greater impact on harvesting operations.

Plus there is always a percentage of crop that doesn't get harvested until the spring.

I would suggest 27.0mmt is a great aspiration but in reality and given some consideration I would say it’s unlikely.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Back to the future

One of my earliest memories of politics in agriculture was 1984 and the introduction of EU milk quotas to drain milk lakes that had been created by previous policies aimed at increasing output.

At the time I was working in my first full time job on a small farm that had gone out of milking cows in the seventies during the previous effort to reduce over production, known as the Golden Handshake.

The farm still had each cows name written on chalk boards above individual stalls, even after fifteen years the boss hadn't been able to take them down such was the emotional attachment to his animals.

Golden handshakes and quotas were and still are blunt instruments used by politicians determined to engineer simple solutions to complex agricultural issues and as today's dairy farmers complain that milk sells for less than water you’d be forgiven for thinking they haven’t work.

I'm not saying it’s wrong to have agricultural policies that encourage safe, sustainable, viable farming, far from it, food production is such a fundamental important business it would be wrong to leave it to the free market.

The problem seems to lie in the disconnect between what is actually possible on a farm and the time frame and what politicians and policy advisor's believe is possible and want to happen.

I clearly remember when quotas were introduced seeing angry, emotional dairy farmers on TV saying it wasn't possible to switch cows on and off like machines and having to send productive in calf animals to slaughter.

Today a familiar story but at the other end of the production continuum is coming out of Russia with calls to ramp up production to cover the shortfall in food supplies caused by the ban on EU and US imports.

This had led to a number of Russian ministers making unrealistic promises about replacing banned products by increasing output with no reference to how that was actually going to be achieved.

As one Russian cattle farmer recently said, “There were around 4 million beef cows in 1991, now there's only 1.5 million, increasing meat production cannot happen overnight, however badly the politicians want it…it's animals, not machines."

Echoes across thirty years from British farmers in 1984 to Russian farmers today.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Russian harvest update

Russia has harvested 104.1mmt of grains and pulses from 41.7mha or 92% of the planned area with an average total yield of 2.50mt/ha.

Last year yield was 2.21mt/ha so a slight improvement.

This breaks down as 60.4mmt of wheat from 22.9mha (93%) with an average yield of 2.64mt/ha; 20.8mmt of barley from 8.8mha (97%) with an average yield of 2.36mt/ha; 7.6mmt of corn from 1.7mha (62%) with an average yield of 4.59mt/ha; 7.2mmt of sunflowers from 4.9mha (72%) with an average yield of 1.47mt/ha; and 1.6mmt of soyabeans from 1.2mha (61%) with an average yield of 1.35mt/ha.

Ukraine harvest update

How time flies, one minute I was talking about the start of harvest then the next minute we are
looking at the finishing stages.

Ukraine has harvested 48.2mmt of grains and pulses from 12.3mha or 83% of the planned area giving an average total yield of 3.91mt/ha.

This is up on the same time last year when total yields were running at 3.54mt/ha.

Current figures breakdown as 11.8mmt of corn from 2.3mha (50%) with an average yield of 5.10mt/ha; 8.8mmt of sunflowers from 4.67mha (91%) with an average yield of 1.89mt/ha; 2.9mha soyabeans from 1.38mha (77%) with an average yield of 2.09mt/ha.