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Commodity Intelligence Report
March 18, 2013

Ukraine and Russia: 2013/14 Winter Grain Conditions


Winter grains in both Ukraine and Russia are in generally good condition as they begin to break dormancy in southern territories.  Total losses due to fall dryness and frost damage have not yet been determined but are not likely to be extensive.  Subsurface moisture reserves are adequate in most regions.  Prospects in the more northern production zones can be more fully assessed as snow cover retreats and winter crops resume vegetative growth. 


The State Statistical Committee of Ukraine reports that 2013/14 winter grains were sown on 8.11 million hectares (against 8.40 million for 2012/13), including 6.70 (6.71) million wheat, 1.10 (1.37) million barley, and 0.30 (0.32) million rye. In addition, 1.03 million hectares of winter rape was planted compared to 0.96 million last year. Fall planting proceeded at a rapid pace and surface moisture was sufficient for proper establishment except for a region of persistent dryness in south-central and eastern Ukraine. (See November report.) Winter wheat comprises about 95 percent of the country’s total wheat production. Winter barley’s share of total barley output ranges from 20 to 35 percent, depending in part on the amount of winterkill. Over 90 percent of Ukraine’s rapeseed is winter rape, and virtually all of the rye is winter rye.

Winter weather was generally favorable for winter crops in Ukraine. The timely arrival of snow cover protected the wheat crop from extensive frost damage during an episode of bitterly cold weather in December, but winter rape and barley likely suffered localized damage. The Ministry of Agricultural Policy reports that over 90 percent of the country's winter crops are in good or satisfactory condition, and the Hydromet Center of Ukraine announced in late February that spring reseeding will be required on a significantly smaller area than last year.

Temperature data indicate that winter grains have resumed vegetative growth in Crimea (in southernmost Ukraine) as of mid-March. In most other areas winter crops were still dormant, and in north-central and western Ukraine crops remain under shallow or patchy snow cover.

According to satellite-derived vegetative indices, winter grains were in better-than-average condition in southern and eastern Ukraine as of early March, prior to the widespread resumption of vegetative growth. Current soil moisture conditions are favorable. Subsoil moisture reserves (or potential reserves, in areas where snow cover remains) are at full capacity in central Ukraine and eastern Ukraine, and at about 70 percent capacity in the south, except for a small pocket of extreme dryness Crimea and Kherson, in south-central Ukraine.

Spring planting is underway across southern Ukraine and is about two weeks ahead of last year’s pace: 410,000 hectares of early spring grains (roughly 10 percent of the likely total) had been planted as of March 11 compared to 420,000 hectares by March 26, 2012. The early spring grains consist chiefly of barley but also include wheat, oats, and pulses. The planting of later spring crops like sunflowers and corn will begin in April.


Winter grains for 2013/14 were sown on a reported 15.5 million hectares (down about 3 percent from the previous year), including 12.9 million wheat, 1.9 million rye, and 0.4 million barley. Winter wheat usually accounts for about half of Russia’s total wheat output. Winter barley comprises roughly 10 percent of the barley, although this number can fluctuate sharply from year to year depending chiefly on the planted area. As in Ukraine, virtually of the rye is winter rye.

Winterkill, which includes losses due to both fall dryness and frost damage, has ranged from 5 percent to over 25 percent over the past ten years but usually falls between 5 and 10 percent. Winter grains in parts of the Volga Valley and neighboring territories likely suffered localized losses during an episode of unusually low temperatures in December, mostly in areas that were devoid of snow cover, but the damage is not expected to be extensive. (See January report.) Total winterkill for the 2013/14 crop will not be determined until the late spring, after the surviving winter crops have fully resumed vegetative growth throughout the country.

Soil moisture levels are generally favorable in European Russia except for parts of the Southern and North Caucasus Districts that have received below-normal precipitation since last September. Subsoil moisture reserves are relatively low in Krasnodar (Southern District) and in Stavropol (North Caucasus District) despite recent rainfall. It should be noted, however, that current moisture demands of winter crops are low. Moreover, wheat yields will hinge largely on subsequent weather, and the crop can recover from early-season dryness. March soil-moisture levels were similarly low in Krasnodar in 2008 and in Stavropol in 2011, but generous spring rainfall resulted in record or near-record wheat yields. Soil-moisture reserves in the Central District and the Volga District are at or near capacity.

Mid-March vegetative indices (NDVI) provide an indicator of winter-crop establishment during the fall and the current state of the crops prior to the resumption of spring growth. As of March 13, the NDVI indicate a slight deterioration in winter-crop conditions in Rostov and Stavropol territories compared to the previous week. Conditions appear to be noticeably better than average in Krasnodar despite the low surface moisture; the surprisingly good conditions are due in part to two brief episodes of timely rain last autumn.

Temperature data suggest that winter grains resumed vegetative growth in mid-March in the southernmost territories of European Russia, including Krasnodar and Stavropol, and remain dormant farther north. As of March 5, snow cover had disappeared throughout most of Stavropol, Krasnodar, and Rostov territories but lingered elsewhere in European Russia.

The planting of spring grains has only recently begun in southern Russia. As of March 13, farmers had sown about 175,000 hectares of early-spring crops, less than 1 percent of the final area forecast by the Ministry of Agriculture. Planting won’t begin on a wide scale until April. The Ministry currently forecasts spring-grain area at 30.3 million hectares, about the same as last year’s level.

Initial USDA estimates of 2013/14 global crop production will be released on May 10, 2013.  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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