Ukraine looked on track for its first sugar surplus in five years, after top producer Astarta, terming its early beet harvest of the "highest level", said it was on track to lift by 75% output of the sweetener.
Astarta said that the average beet weights, from a harvest which began late last month, were coming in 10% higher than last year, when Ukraine was hit by the same drought which, in neighbouring Russia, was the worst on record.
The group signalled higher sugar content in the beet too in terming the crop’s "quantitative and qualitative characteristics" as being "on the highest level".
Indeed, results on weight and growth in sugar content "significantly exceeds" those of previous years. In 2010, Astarta’s sugar extraction rate fell, thanks to the impact of dry weather, to 12.7% of beet weight, from 14.8% in 2009.
The national figure fell to 11.8% from 13.5%.
Astarta added that it was maintaining guidance of 350,000 tonnes of sugar output this year, lifted by a 13% rise to 43,000 hectares in beet sowings and a move into cane processing besides the improved quality of the domestic crop.
The group has produced some 30,000 tonnes of sugar from cane since opening a processing plant in June.
The results from Ukraine’s top sugar producer underpin hopes that the country’s sugar output will beat consumption of about 2m tonnes for the first time since 2006. Last year’s drought cut production to 1.55m tonnes.
While Ukraine in Soviet times produced some 5m tonnes of sugar, output has fallen thanks to growth in production of lower-cost cane sugar, and a switch by growers into crops, such as sunflowers, which have tended to produce higher returns.
Ukraine’s farm ministry has targeted production of 2.2m tonnes, while Ukrtsukor, the national sugar union, has pegged output at 2.1m tonnes.
Last week, the International Sugar Organization forecast Ukrainian sugar output "well in excess of" 2m tonnes in 2011-12, supported by a 10% increase in beet area and "good weather".
Many other beet-producing nations are expecting higher crops too, including Russia, where better conditions could see jump to more than 5m tonnes from 2.7m tonnes in 2011-12, the ISO said.
Astarta shares, which are listed in Warsaw, stood 2.0% lower at 72.00 zloty in afternoon trade.