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Commodity Intelligence Report
February 17, 2009

Ukraine:  Early Conditions for 2009/10 Winter Grains

Ukraine has become a major exporter of grains during the past ten years.  Following a bumper harvest in 2008, wheat exports for 2008/09 are estimated at nearly 10 million tons.  Wheat is Ukraine's major winter grain, and although final yields will depend largely on spring weather, early prospects for 2009/10 winter crops are favorable. 

According to data from the State Statistical Committee of Ukraine, 8.25 million hectares of winter grains were sown for 2009/10 (against 8.28 million last year), including 6.50 (6.89) million wheat, 0.49 (0.50) million rye, and 1.27 (0.88) million barley. Winter wheat usually accounts for about 95 percent of Ukraine’s total wheat output, while winter barley comprises only 10 to 15 percent of the country’s barley production. Virtually all of Ukraine’s rye is winter rye. Winter-grain planting begins in early September and is nearly finished by the end of October. Harvest occurs during July and August.

Winter wheat is grown throughout Ukraine, but the country's main production zone lies in the central, southern, and eastern territories.

Declining domestic prices – a result of substantial carryover stocks from the 2007/08 harvest (due chiefly to government-imposed export restrictions) combined with the bumper 2008/09 crop – likely contributed to the slight reduction in sown wheat area for 2009/10. It should be noted, however, that the recent plunge in domestic prices, including a 44-percent plunge in the price for feed wheat between mid-October and the end of the year, did not occur until winter-grain planting was nearly complete. Furthermore, reported sown wheat area remains above the average of the past five years.

While winter wheat area changed little from last year, the planted area of winter barley jumped by nearly 50 percent. UkrAgroConsult, one of Ukraine’s leading commodity-analysis groups, attributes the area increase to favorable market conditions for barley (relative to other grains), and to the fact that winter barley is usually harvested earlier than wheat, which enables farmers to sell when prices are higher. Winter barley is grown mostly in south-central Ukraine. Despite the sharp year-to-year increase in the amount of sown area, data from the State Statistical Committee indicate that planting has not expanded beyond the traditional production zone.

Winter rape has emerged as a highly popular and profitable crop in recent years. Sown area skyrocketed from less than 0.1 million hectares for 2003/04 to 1.53 million for 2008/09. Area dropped slightly for 2009/10, to 1.44 million hectares. Spring-rape area varies from year to year and has not been subject to the same explosive growth as winter rape. Planted area reached a record 0.14 million hectares in 2007/08, then dropped to 0.05 million last season. In 2008/09, record-high area and yield enabled Ukraine to harvest an estimated 2.8 million tons of total rapeseed, shattering the previous-year record of 1.1 million.

Planting and establishment conditions for 2009/10 winter crops were generally favorable. Although surface-soil moisture fluctuated from week to week over the course of the sowing campaign for 2009/10 winter grains and was frequently below normal, dryness was never extreme for an extended period of time and winter crops had adequate moisture for germination and establishment. Cool, wet weather in mid-September interrupted sowing operations but replenished soil moisture reserves, and subsequent dry and seasonably warm weather enabled planting to resume at a rapid pace. Satellite-derived vegetative indices indicate that crop establishment was better than average.

Microwave satellite imagery indicates above-average snow depth throughout Ukraine and southern Russia prior to the arrival of low temperatures in early January.Gradually declining temperatures during November and December enabled winter crops to advance through the hardening stage in preparation for dormancy prior to the onset of winter weather. Although temperatures in eastern Ukraine dropped below -20 degrees Celsius in early January, the weather was not cold enough to cause damage to crops, which were fully dormant and adequately protected by insulating snow cover.  Temperatures have been seasonably moderate since the early-January cold snap.  Winter grains typically break dormancy and resume vegetative growth during March.

The USDA estimates 2008/09 Ukraine wheat production at 25.9 million tons, the largest crop since the record harvest of 30.4 million tons in 1990/91. Initial USDA estimates of global crop production for 2009/10 will be released on May 11, 2009. Current estimates are available at PSD Online.  For more information, contact Mark Lindeman at 202-690-0143.  Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD’s Agricultural Production page, or at PSD Online.

For more information contact Mark Lindeman | | (202) 690-0143
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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