November 16, 2015 / 12:35 PM / 2 years ago

Black Sea region cuts winter grain area, Ukraine sees smaller harvest

KIEV/MOSCOW, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Russia and Ukraine, the leading wheat producers in the Black Sea region, have cut their 2016 winter wheat sowing area due to dry weather, analysts and traders said, signalling more risks of next year's crop and exports.

The two countries combined are expected to export 38.5 million tonnes of wheat this 2015/16 marketing season, accounting for almost a quarter of the world's wheat trade, according to a USDA forecast.

Excessively dry weather in eastern, central and southern Ukraine has prompted farmers to terminate winter sowing, leaving around 11 percent of the area unsown, agriculture ministry data showed.

"The sowing is completed and the situation is very bad. We still have four huge regions where crops are in a very poor condition," Tetyana Adamenko, head of the agriculture department at Ukraine's state weather centre, told Reuters.

She said that only 20 percent of the sown crops had sprouted in the Zaporizhya region and 22 percent in Dnipropetrovsk. The situation is also bad in the Poltava, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, she added.

Ukraine's leading agriculture consultancy, UkrAgroConsult, on Monday cut its forecast for Ukraine's 2016 wheat harvest by about 8 percent to 17.5 million tonnes, citing the poor condition of sprouted crops.

"Only 62 percent of sown winter grain has sprouted so far and around 30 percent of it is in a poor state. This has forced us to revise the outlook," analyst Yelizaveta Malyshko said.

Traders expect Ukraine's 2016 wheat harvest at between 14 and 18 million tonnes. This year the country harvested about 25 million tonnes.

"We see no more than 17 million tonnes of wheat next year. And the outlook is negative," a large foreign trader said.

"Poor weather this winter and an early and hot spring could cut the harvest even to 13 million tonnes," another trader said.

SOWING IN RUSSIA

Russian farmers have cut winter grain sowing due to dry weather in several regions this year and are likely to sow up to 16.4 million hectares this year, Igor Pavensky, deputy head of strategic marketing at rail infrastructure operator Rusagrotrans, told Reuters.

As of Nov. 13, Russian farmers had sown winter grains on 16.2 million hectares, down from 16.6 million hectares a year ago and on 95 percent of the originally planned area.

There is no clarity on what percent of sown winter grains is currently in good, satisfactory or bad condition. State weather forecaster Hydrometcentre usually prepares this estimate in December and updates it in March.

Currently, the condition of winter grains is good or satisfactory "almost everywhere", Alexander Frolov, the head of Hydrometcentre, told Reuters.

He declined to forecast next year's harvest, but said that based on the level of moisture in soil, the prospects for 2016 winter grains crop are "not worse and even slightly better than last year."

"Everything depends on the coming winter," Frolov said. "There are forecasts that this year's winter will be temperate in the main grain-sowing regions, excluding, possibly, Siberia." (Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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