Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Russian harvest update

Russian Ministry of Agriculture report harvest is underway in the Republic of Adygea, Kalmykia, North Ossetia-Alania, Stavropol, Krasnodar, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkess Republic.

As of 28 June, the Ministry report 670kha of grain and leguminous crops harvested (317kha in 2015) producing 2.9mmt with an average yield 4.3mt/ha (3.9mt/ha in 2015).

The Southern Federal District harvested 1.1mmt from ​​207kha (87kha in 2015) with an average yield of 5.4mt/ha (5.5mt/ha in 2015).

This includes the Republic of Adygea 90.7kmt from 17.8kha to yield 5.1mt/ha (5.4mt/ha in 2015); Republic of Kalmykia 42kmt from 12.7kha to yield 3.3mt/ha (2.6mt/ha in 2015); Krasnodar 990kmt from 176kha with an average yield of 5.6mt/ha (5.9mt/ha in 2015). 

The North Caucasus Federal District harvested 1.4mmt from ​​343kha (193kha in 20125) with an average yield of 4.2mt/ha (3.4mt/ha in 2015) with the bulk of this coming from Stavropol.

Still early days but my contacts are telling me initial test results are showing quality is down on last year.

Latest USDA weather update for western and eastern FSU

Western FSU
Favourable weather continued, with occasional showers interspersed with periods of sun aiding fieldwork and crop development.

From southern and eastern Ukraine into southern Russia, mostly sunny, occasionally hot weather accelerated winter wheat drydown and promoted a rapid harvest pace.

While daytime highs approached or topped 35°C, there was little - if any - negative impact on vegetative corn and sunflowers; corn will likely enter the tassel stage during the first or second week of July in southern Russia.

Farther west and north, showers and thunderstorms (10-50 mm) from Moldova into Belarus and Russia’s Central District benefited spring grains and vegetative summer crops.

Eastern FSU
Widespread albeit highly variable showers continued over the region’s primary spring wheat areas, while cooler, unsettled conditions settled over southern portions of the region.

For the third consecutive week, showers and thunderstorms across northern Kazakhstan and central Russia boosted soil moisture for crop establishment.

Rainfall totals varied from 1 to 51 mm, though most crop areas reported more than 5 mm.

Easternmost spring wheat areas received moderate to heavy rainfall (15-100 mm), easing moisture demands brought on by last week’s heat.

Farther south, showers (2-40 mm) provided supplemental moisture for irrigated cotton and resulted in cooler-than-normal temperatures (up to 3°C below normal) from northern Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan into eastern Kyrgyzstan.

Monday, 27 June 2016

UK farming post EU

As the UK voted to shoot itself squarely in the foot, the implications are falling out of the tree and will continue do so for years to come.

The task now for UK farming will be how to remain competitive with reduced financial support, how to deal with export barriers to their largest market and how to discourage governments likely to favour cheaper food to sweeten the bitter pill of EU exit fall out.

Probably worth UK farming lobbies learning a little Russian so they can study the impact of self-inflicted trade isolationism first hand.

Russia, in retaliation to EU and US sanctions, introduced an embargo on imports of many food and agriculture commodities.

The response was for Russia to implement an import substitution policy which essentially sounded like a “Buy Russian” and “Dig for Victory” campaign.

One outcome that is sure is that once the UK triggers the leave process they have two years in which to negotiate a position with the EU but there is no requirement for a position to be agreed or in place within that two year period.  At the end of two years the UK will revert to World Trade Organisation rules regardless.

The Russian Ministry of Agriculture said last week that membership of the WTO has done little for domestic farming and the industry has only been restored with the help of Russia's food embargo.

He might be pushing it to say Russian agriculture has been restored but you get the idea.

The Minister went on to say that "we have learned to live without Europe with regard to food, we will learn to pay attention to our processing capacities and develop our own equipment".

Early comments from the UK National Farmers Union, who ran a remain campaign and are now preparing to make British farming work without a carrot but with plenty of stick, is to “Buy British” and “Dig for Victory”.

Clearly the UK has a long way to go.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Russian harvest update

Russian Ministry of Agriculture report 124kha of grain and leguminous crops harvested so far (64kha in 2015) producing 587kmt with an average yield 4.7mt/ha (4.6mt/ha in 2015).

Republic of Adygea harvested 50.3kmt from 9.8kha to yield 5.1mt/ha (5.5mt/ha in 2015); Stavropol 336kmt from 75.6kha with an average yield of 4.5mt/ha (3.9mt/ha in 2015); Krasnodar harvested 194kmt from 36kha with an average yield of 5.4mt/ha (5.9mt/ha in 2015).

My early reports on quality is variable from poor to great, I assume that’ll settle down as we get more samples in.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Russia and Ukraine start harvest

Winter wheat harvest has started in southern Russia and Crimea with early yields coming off at an average of 4.9mt/ha which compares with 4.5mt/ha in 2015. 

My contacts are telling me they are quietly confident of good crops this year although some combine drivers have been reporting of lower yields further east.

It’s very early days so I wouldn’t read too much into figures at this stage but it’s worth noting that commentators are just now starting to pick up on possible problems with Black Sea winter crops such as lodging, excessive number of weeds, low protein and high fungal disease levels.

This is something we first highlighted about three weeks ago during our crop tour, another example of why it might be worth signing up to our timely service.

Bloomberg report Russia is preparing to harvest more barley than last year with as much as 18.5mmt, mostly used as feed, after a warm winter followed by spring rains.  That’s if it doesn’t all fall over first.

CLAAS signs a special investment contract with Russia

German agricultural machinery manufacturer, CLAAS has signed a special investment contract with Russia which among other things gives the company official status as "Russian manufacturer" and therefore eligible for state subsidies.

Around 72mha of land is currently used for farming although it’s reported that 122mha is suitable and with the current policy of export substitution and bringing land back into production, the demand for combines and other machinery is high.

"The Russian agricultural sector has a truly promising future. This contract now makes state-of-the-art agricultural machinery affordable for Russian businesses", explains Lothar Kriszun, Spokesman of the CLAAS Executive Board.

Maybe so but whether expensive western machines fit that bill remains to be seen as domestic machinery producer, Rostselmash, sold out of their very capable and keenly priced combines earlier this year.

Latest Black Sea Plantings

As of June 10 Ukraine had planted 7.3mha of spring grains and pulses, up on the previous year when they had achieved 6.9mha.  

This includes 2.2mha of spring cereals (169kha wheat; 1.8mha barley; 213kha oats) and 4.4mha corn.  In addition to the above farmers planted 5.5mha of sunflower (up 15% on 2015) and 1.86mha of soya.

Meanwhile as of 21 June Russia had planted 51mha of spring crops, down slightly on 51.8mha in 2015.  

This includes 13.6mha of wheat, 7.8mha barley and 2.8mha of corn.  In addition to the above farmers planted 7.0mha of sunflowers and 2.0mha of soya.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The UK EU referendum

The UK goes to the polls tomorrow to decide if we want to remain in the EU or leave, I’ve lived in and outside the EU and I know where I'd rather be.

Living outside the EU meant I've dealt with a multitude of pointless border checks, unnecessary suspicion, baggage searches, bribery and corruption not to mention expensive visa’s and intransigent bureaucracy.

When I think of the EU I tend think of a wonderful wider European continent and not abroad but as an extension of where I was born, so it’ll come as no surprise then if I say I’m not entirely stoked by the idea leaving.

Building barriers, walls or deeper moats goes against my sense of problem solving, we don't need to build the wall higher, we need to solve the root cause of the problem if indeed there is one.  If history has taught us anything it’s nothing ever good comes from a wall.

I want my children to grow up in a multi-cultural society and to have a multi-cultural perspective, I want them to be bi-lingual or tri-lingual, enjoy tapas, bratwurst and smoked carp, have international friends and partners, know how to cook a globe artichoke, to study at one of the universities dotted throughout Europe, get a job in one country after another, travel and work freely across an expanding European Union and not sit at home, blinkered, blaming anything they consider to be different for all the problems in their world. 

The more we are exposed to a new things the sooner it becomes accepted and not different, like garlic, remember when garlic was an exotic thing?

It makes little difference to me if legislation is delivered from Brussels or Whitehall, most of us are about as detached from the process of running a country as is practicably possible.  We all like to say how we’d run the country safe in the knowledge that we don’t and there will never be any consequences to our ideas however sound or crack pot they may be because we are not running the country.

It’s the same way we like to be armchair football managers and proclaim how a diamond or 4,4,2 would resolve the perpetual problem on the left but we’ll never know because we are not actually football managers.

The EU is not evil, it’s not full of people trying to think up new ways to specifically target Britain with burdensome bureaucracy, it has achieved a lot of good and will continue to do so with or without Britland.

It is, however, a bit of a basket case and long overdue an overhaul, reboot or reset, but surely it’s better to be in inside the tent pissing out rather than outside the tent.

It's probably too late in the day to ask not what the EU can do for me, but what can I do for the EU, but it's possibly the question we should have been asking all along.

Vive la Europe.

Latest USDA weather update for western and eastern FSU

Western FSU
Mostly favourable weather prevailed, with rain in western and northern growing areas contrasting with dry conditions for much of the week in southern Russia.

A persistent blocking high over northern Eurasia continued to cause storms to drift and stall over Ukraine and northern Russia.

As a result, an additional 10 to 55mm of rain from central Ukraine into western and northern Russia sustained adequate to abundant soil moisture for filling winter wheat as well as vegetative corn, soybeans, and sunflowers in Moldova, Ukraine, and western Russia.

However, key southern Russian winter wheat areas of Rostov and Krasnodar Krai (located in the southwestern Southern District) were dry for much of the week, which enabled winter wheat maturation and drydown.

After a cool start to the week, increasingly warm weather (30-34°C) developed over much of Russia as well as western-most crop areas.

Eastern FSU
Beneficial showers continued over the region’s primary spring wheat areas, while early-season heat lingered over eastern portions of the region.

For the second consecutive week, showers and thunderstorms (10-55 mm) across northern Kazakhstan and central Russia boosted soil moisture for crop establishment.

Localized pockets of dry weather continued in Russia’s Siberia District, but most areas have sufficient soil moisture for proper spring wheat development.

Eastern-most spring wheat areas experienced daytime highs at or above 30°C, which accelerated crop development but also increased evapotranspiration rates.

Farther south, seasonable heat continued - albeit not as hot as last week - with daytime readings topping 35°C (locally as high as 40°C in Uzbekistan and 44°C in Turkmenistan) across much of the region’s southern tier.

The heat was accompanied by showers and thunderstorms (10-50 mm, locally more than 100 mm), which provided supplemental moisture for vegetative cotton and also boosted irrigation reserves.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Second Black Sea Crop Tour of 2016 finished

We have completed the June Black Sea Crop Tour and reports are now available.

Over ten days we drove 5,000km through 16 oblasts of Ukraine and Russia, made nearly 1,000 crop observations and 70 detailed assessments, posted 157 pictures and 20 video reports on the Crop Tour Twitter account, visited four farms and consumed a gallon of borscht.

We now have two 2,000 words reports with forecasts on wheat, corn, sunflower and soya output for harvest 16 based on weighted yields according to our observations and assessments.

You can buy these reports direct for £125 each or subscribe to this and the three remaining tours planned for this seasons and get access to the Crop Tour Twitter account for £550.

In other developments we are starting to extend our network of crop reporters who are able to send in updates from around the region which will give us greater and more frequent coverage and we might also be tapping in to farm based weather stations to give us further insight.

We are also in discussion aimed at extending our services beyond the Black Sea region, can’t say too much right now but watch this space.

If you would like to support our efforts in providing independent assessments and yield forecasts of key commodity crops from major agricultural regions then please join our club, we’d be happy to have you on board.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Latest USDA weather update for western and eastern FSU

Western FSU
Unsettled weather prevailed over central and northern portions of the region, while somewhat drier weather returned to primary southern wheat areas.

A persistent blocking high over northern Eurasia caused storms to drift and stall over Ukraine and Russia for a third consecutive week.

As a result, an additional 10 to 30 mm of rain was reported from central Ukraine into central and northern Russia, while moderate to heavy rainfall (20-80 mm) was observed in Russia’s North Caucasus District.

As a result, soil moisture remained adequate to abundant for reproductive to filling winter wheat as well as vegetative corn, soybeans, and sunflowers in Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia.

However, key Russian winter wheat areas of Rostov and Krasnodar Krai* in the southwestern Southern District were favourably drier (mostly less than 5 mm), with this week’s respite from recent wetness facilitating fieldwork and crop maturation.

Temperatures averaged 2 to 5°C below normal, which slowed crop development but also minimized heat concerns following a warm, locally hot start to the month.

(*The picture is from Stavropol last week, Stavropol neighbours Krasnodar Krai)

Eastern FSU
Beneficial rain returned to the region’s primary spring wheat areas, though early-season heat expanded northward out of South Asia. 

Following a much-drier-than-normal May, which enabled rapid spring wheat planting but also reduced soil moisture, moderate to heavy showers and thunderstorms (10-80 mm) across northern Kazakhstan and central Russia were timely for crop establishment. 

There were pockets of dry weather noted in Russia’s Siberia District, but most crop areas now have sufficient soil moisture for proper spring wheat development. 

Farther south, excessive heat expanded northward from southern Asia, with daytime readings topping 38°C (locally as high 43°C in Uzbekistan and 47°C in Turkmenistan) across much of the region’s southern tier. 

Some of this heat (32-34°C) expanded into northeastern Kazakhstan and the Siberia District. 

While the hot conditions caused high evapo-transpiration rates and increased irrigation requirements, spring wheat (north) and cotton (south) were not yet in the temperature-sensitive reproductive stages of development.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Second Black Sea Crop Tour successfully completed

We have successfully completed the second Black Sea Crop Tour of 2016.

I have yet to add up the route but I think we covered around 4KKM across Ukraine and Russia taking in central, southern and eastern Ukraine and central and southern Russia.

Those of you that subscribe will have followed events through the members only Twitter account and been able to watch the tour through pictures, videos and comments.

There are a couple of issues that have the potential to impact on harvest 2016 and as yet these are not being picked up by the mainstream media and I believe these issues could only be ascertained by driving across the grain growing regions first hand.

I am now back in the office writing up the follow up reports for both countries and these will be sent out to subscribers shortly.

If you would like to subscribe and support our service and then drop me a line, you will then be able to access the members Twitter account (with pictures, video and comments), receive copies of the tour reports (and the previous tours) and follow three more tours scheduled for this year.

Thanks to my team for helping me organise and run each tour and to our members who's support and contribution makes the whole thing happen.