Kiev - Perfect weather in the top two grain producers in the Black Sea region - Ukraine and Russia - has created conditions for an all-time-high maize harvest of up to 40 million tonnes in 2013, half of which could be shipped abroad, analysts and officials say.
The two countries, once known only as major exporters of wheat and barley, have gradually increased their role on the world's maize market, pushing US maize out of markets in the Middle East, North Africa and even in Asia.
Favourable weather, new hybrids and modern technologies have allowed farmers to boost maize yields and increase the quality of a grain used mainly as livestock feed.
“This year's weather was fantastic for maize - warm enough and with moderate level of rain,” said Tetyana Adamenko, head of the agriculture department in Ukraine's weather forecasting centre.
A dry and warm September is expected to help Russia get a record maize (corn) harvest and export a record amount of the cereal this year as early yields are up 14 percent, year-on-year, weather forecasters said.
The Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) expects the 2013 maize harvest to reach a record level of 10 million tonnes, of which about 3 million tonnes would be available for export during 2013/14.
“There are expectations that Ukraine would also get a record maize harvest and export, and if Russia does the same, our prices (in both countries) would sink,” Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, said.
SovEcon agriculture analysts also expect Russia to harvest a record 9.7 million tonnes of maize this year, up from 8.2 million tonnes last year.
Russia has already harvested 0.6 million tonnes of maize from 4.7 percent of sown area as of September 9.
The harvest is delayed, compared to last year, when the country harvested 1.0 million tonnes at the same date.
Yields are higher, however, and are quoted at 4.89 tonnes per hectare, compared to 4.28 a year ago, data from Russia's agriculture ministry showed.
Ukraine, which has boosted its maize production by 400 percent in the past 10 years, plans to reach an all-time-high maize output of 30 million tonnes in 2013, according to a government source.
The agriculture ministry had forecast the output at 26 million tonnes, the same volume as expected by most of Ukrainian agriculture analysts and weather forecasters. “Our figure is 25 million tonnes and we will not update it,” Adamenko said.
ProAgro consultancy saw the 2013 maize harvest at 26.8 million tonnes while UkrAgroConsult expects output of 25.5 million tonnes.
The former Soviet republic harvested 472,000 tonnes of maize from 2 percent of the sown area as of September 9.
The yield totalled 5.21 tonne per hectare, the ministry said.
But rains across most Ukrainian regions, which are likely to last next 10 days, could have bearing on the pace of harvesting and reduce maize quality. “We are not talking about volume because rains could not reduce the weight, but rains could hit the quality,” Adamenko said.
Maize occupies a special role for Ukraine's grain since, unlike wheat and barley, more than half of it is exported, mainly to clients in North Africa and the Middle East.
Kiev is seeking to boost maize exports to Asian markets and especially to China, a new client.
A government source said a high-ranking Ukrainian delegation is due to visit China this month on a mission to convince Beijing to import several million tonnes of Ukrainian maize this season. - Reuters