Ukraine acts to lift exports of growing grain crop

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Ukraine has unveiled further moves to boost its grain exports, which are flagging even as harvest hopes have grown, with UkgrAgroConsult upgrading its production estimate, and Astarta unveiling a jump in yields.

The country’s trade ministry unveiled preferential credit treatment for grain exporters, in an effort to kick-start shipments which reached only 338,000 tonnes in July, the first month of 2011-12.

The move follows a farm ministry drive to boost VAT refunds to exporters buying directly from growers, and help the country fulfil its expected potential of 21m-23m tonnes of exports this year.

The weak start for exports, which contrasts with the sizzling rate of shipments from neighbouring Russia, has been attributed in part to a grain export duty, which has damaged the competitiveness of Ukrainian supplies, as well as to concerns over the quality of supplies following harvest rains.

Harvest upgrade

The latest government move, which a draft proposes will be handled by Ukraine’s central bank, came shortly before UkrAgroConsult lifted by 2.14m tonnes, to 46.26m tonnes, its forecast for the country’s grain crop this year.

The influential analysis group cited better hopes for barley and wheat crops, following firm harvest yields, and forecast for corn lifted to 15.0m tonnes thanks to "favourable weather conditions".

Even so, the Kiev-based group remains behind some other observers in its forecasts, with its wheat estimate of 20.6m tonnes, for instance, behind a US Department of Agriculture estimate last week of 21.0m tonnes.

Mykola Bezugly, Ukraine’s deputy farm minister, last month pegged Ukraine’s total grains crop at 51m tonnes.

UkrAgroConsult estimated Ukraine’s grain exports at 22.35m tonnes, including 9.7m tonnes of wheat, 9.1m tonnes of corn and 3.2m tonnes of barley.

Yield improvements

Separately, Astarta, the beet-to-barley farming giant, revealed that its average yields of the early harvest were 27% higher than last year, when parts of the Ukraine suffered from the drought which devastated the harvest in neighbouring Russia.

The wheat yield came in at an average of 4.5 tonnes per hectare, and winter barley yield at 3.0 tonnes per hectare. Some of its operations achieving record yields of 6.6 tonnes per hectare in wheat and 4.2 tonnes per hectare in barley.

Yields on "mature" fields, which Astarta had previously tilled, so improving soil structure and nutrient levels, was "substantially higher" than those on new land.

UkrAgroConsult pegged the national wheat yield at 3.07 tonnes per hectare this season, and the average barley yield at 2.23 tonnes per hectare.

Astarta shares closed 3.7% higher at 72.30 zloty in Warsaw.


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