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Kazakhstan Faces “Moisture Deficit”, FAO Warns

Tuesday 24 April 2012

(Agrimoney.com) – The United Nations raised concerns for Kazakhstan’s wheat harvest, flagging a moisture shortage in main producing areas, as forecasters warned of continued dryness.

The UN’s food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, forecast an even bigger fall in the Kazakh wheat crop than the 34% plunge predicted by US farm officials, noting dryness stemming from “insufficient snow during winter”.

“In the main central growing areas, and some northern parts, soil conditions are not adequate due to moisture deficits,” the FAO said. And the country, which last year saw cereals output soar to a record 26.6m tonnes thanks to near-ideal conditions, looks unlikely, with other former Soviet Union countries, to receive moisture soon.

The region’s overall weather pattern “is going to be turning significantly warmer and drier” as a heart ridge builds from Kazakhstan into western Russia and Ukraine this week and into May, WxRisk.com said. “This will allow temperatures to warm up significantly and for conditions to dry out,” with no rain in Kazakh forecasts heading into mid-May, and with little in outlooks for Russia and Ukraine too.

“Higher-than-normal winterkill”

The FAO, using an average yield forecast, estimated Kazakhstan’s wheat crop at 14.5m tonnes, 500,000 tonnes below an estimate from US Department of Agriculture foreign staff.

And it saw the Ukraine wheat harvest tumbling too, by 37% to 14.0m tonnes, sapped by winterkill that “has been higher than normal due to severe low temperatures and limited snow cover”. This figure is in line with many other estimates, including that of the Ukraine farm ministry, although official meteorologists on Tuesday said the crop could come in as low as 11m tonnes.

Russia prospects

Nonetheless, the UN FAO forecast the overall cereals harvest in the former Soviet Union falling only 4.9% to 150.2m tonnes, thanks in part to reseedings with spring crops of Ukraine area lost to winterkill. And Russia will see a slight uptick in grains production, to 92.3m tonnes, reflecting increasing in the main in wheat output.

The wheat harvest will rise by 600,000 tonnes, “largely reflecting an increase in plantings in response to continuing strong prices.”

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