Russian Wheat Crop Outlook in Doubt after Yields Slip

Russian wheat yields have dipped below last year’s level, raising questions about the current crop estimates, the country’s wheat harvest so far shows, according to Bloomberg

The top wheat exporter processed the grain from 8.2 million hectares, and it revealed that yields fell 3% from a year earlier, Agriculture Ministry data show. The acreage is about 30% of total plantings, according to SovEcon.

The yield drop, which comes after hot and dry weather in June and May, contrasts with estimates that show Russia’s crop increasing from a year earlier. SovEcon said on Thursday it’s reconsidering its outlook.

“Generally, yields have been worse than last year both in the south and the Volga Valley,” said Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at SovEcon. “And last year wasn’t brilliant.”

The situation may be better than last year in some central parts, Sizov said. The southern region of Krasnodar, which is one of Russia’s top wheat growers, collected a record crop, Interfax reported Thursday. Farmers have also planted more wheat for this year’s crop than a year earlier, the Agriculture Ministry reported last week without giving comparative numbers.

Still, there’s already been a slew of estimate cuts in recent weeks, including by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Russian analysts, which cited a lack of rains and high temperatures as plants matured. Even after a cut, the USDA, which put out one of the most pessimistic forecasts, sees the crop rising from the year before.

A lower crop in Russia could further erode the outlook for a record global production and inventories of the grain. While cutting Russia’s wheat output estimate earlier this month, the USDA also reduced forecasts for some other big exporters, including the European Union, Ukraine and Australia.

Some Russian farm companies still think a bigger crop is possible. Trio Group, which farms wheat in the central Russian region of Lipetsk, is about to start harvesting wheat, and the plants look good, said Vyacheslav Borodin, head of the company’s grains unit.

“We expect yields at least at the level of last year and even higher,” he said.