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Commodity Intelligence Report
December 14, 2011

Ukraine: Persistent Dryness Hampers 2012/13 Winter Grain Development


Establishment conditions for Ukraine’s 2012/13 winter crops have been unusually and persistently dry. Although the dryness did not impede planting progress, surface soil moisture in most regions of the country was insufficient for proper crop establishment and officials report that about one-third of the county’s winter grains are entering the winter in weak condition.

Winter grains comprise about half of total grain area and production in Ukraine. According to a November 21 planting report from the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, winter grains for 2012/13 were sown on 8.05 million hectares (against 8.33 million for 2011/12), including 6.50 (6.55) million wheat, 0.33 (0.29) million rye, and 1.22 (1.25) million barley. Planting proceeded rapidly, virtually matching last year’s pace, and was complete by early November. Winter wheat accounts for about 95 percent of wheat area. Winter barley area has tripled over the past five years and its share of total barley area has increased from 8 percent in 2006 to over 30 percent in 2011. Virtually all of Ukraine’s rye is winter rye. Winter-rape area expanded from 130,000 hectares to 1.59 million hectares between 2002 and 2008 in response to exploding rapeseed demand from the EU biodiesel industry but has decreased for the past two years. Sown area for 2012/13 is reported at 0.91 million hectares compared to 1.08 million last year.  Rape is the winter crop most susceptible to winter damage, and winterkill is significantly higher for rape than for wheat and other grains.  (Note that the preceding numbers for all winter crops refer to final fall-planted area prior to winterkill. Official USDA area data for Ukraine report harvested area and reflect losses due to winterkill or severe spring or summer weather.)

Autumn precipitation in 2011 has been the lowest in Ukraine’s recent history. Dryness prevailed throughout September, October, and November, coincident with the planting, emergence, and establishment of Ukraine’s winter crops. Surface moisture has been below normal throughout the country but the situation was probably most severe in southern Ukraine. What distinguishes this season’s dryness from other dry falls (such as 2005 and 2009) is the persistence: surface moisture typically rebounds in November but this year saw no improvement in moisture conditions until early December when showers fell in eastern Ukraine, partially reversing the extended dryness. Although winter wheat is a remarkably resilient crop and favorable spring weather can compensate in part for poor winter-crop establishment caused by insufficient fall moisture, data indicate that seasons of excessive fall dryness are also marked by above-average winterkill. The current winter crops have not been subject to frost damage, but consistently below-freezing temperatures typically do not arrive in Ukraine until mid-December.  As of December 12, most regions of Ukraine were devoid of snow cover.

An assessment report released by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy on December 1 indicates that 33 percent of the country’s winter crops are in poor condition, compared to about 6 percent at roughly the same time last year. Ukrainian agricultural officials are already anticipating above-average winter crop losses and estimate that 1.5 million hectares of winter crops – about 15 percent of the sown area – may need to be replanted with spring crops. Barley traditionally has been the primary crop used for reseeding of fields subject to high winter-crop losses, but agricultural officials and some private commodity analysts have suggested that corn and soybeans will occupy a large share of the reseeded area in 2012.

The valuable contribution of Yuliya Dubinyuk, USDA/FAS agricultural specialist in Kyiv, is gratefully acknowledged. Initial USDA forecasts of 2012/13 global crop production will be released in May 2012.

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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