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Major Black Sea grain exporters face 27 per cent crop fall

The Black Sea region countries, which combined are one of the world's key wheat exporters, are expected to cut their combined 2012 grain harvest by 27 per cent, year-on-year, to 130 million tonnes due to a drought, the latest official forecasts showed.

Hot and dry weather has decimated this year's grain output from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which normally supply a quarter of world wheat export volumes, as the U.S. experienced its worst harvest in more than half a century, sending global prices for wheat and corn into overdrive.

Adding to upward pressure on wheat prices were persistent rumours that Russia will ban grain exports this year, as it did after a drought in 2010.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dispelled speculation on Wednesday, saying there were no talks over such a move, despite his concerns about rising grain prices.

Russia and Kazakhstan have almost completed their 2012 campaign and have harvested 96 per cent and 99 per cent of the sown area respectively, while Ukraine has harvested 85 per cent of its seeded area.

Russia, historically the world's No. 3 global wheat exporter by volume, is officially expected to decrease its 2012 crop to 71 million tonnes of grain by clean weight, down from last year's 94 million tonnes.

Its wheat harvest is expected at 40 million tonnes, down 29 per cent, while barley is seen at 14 million tonnes and maize (corn) at seven to eight million tonnes.

By Oct. 9, Russia had harvested 70.58 million tonnes of grain by bunker weight, with yields down 18.6 percent at 1.88 tonnes per hectare, agriculture ministry data, seen by Reuters, showed. The document had no latest wheat crop data.

Ukraine may cut its grain crop to 45-46 million tonnes this year, from last year's 57 million tonnes, according to official estimates.

The country has already harvested 36.3 million tonnes of grain from 85 per cent of the planted area as of Oct. 8, according to the data provided by the agriculture ministry.

Poor weather cut the harvest of Ukrainian wheat to 15.5 million tonnes from 22.3 million tonnes in 2011 and the barley crop fell to 7.2 million tonnes from 9.1 million.

In Kazakhstan, the Black Sea region's top producer of hard wheat, dry skies could cut this year's grain harvest to about 13 million tonnes by clean weight from last year's post-independence record crop of 27 million tonnes.

Kazakh officials declined to give a forecast for this year's wheat harvest.

To date, Kazakhstan has threshed a total of 14.3 million tonnes of grain by bunker weight from 99 per cent of the sown area, data released by the central Asian state's agriculture ministry showed. Yields averaged 0.94 tonnes per hectare.

Winter seeding

Officials and analysts are not ready to forecast next year's grain harvest in the region, although the weather for its winter grain sowing campaign remains favourable, except for the south of Ukraine.

Ukraine, a traditional producer of winter wheat, seeded key winter grain areas at the best and allowable time making use of favourable moisture conditions, UkrAgroConsult said.

Farms have so far sown 6.4 million hectares with winter grains, or 86 per cent of the originally expected area, compared to the 6.1 million sown by the same date in 2011.

Russian data on winter grains sowing campaign was not available this week. As of last week, 76 per cent of the sowing campaign had been completed. The country plans to seed slightly less than 17 million tonnes of hectares this year.

Kazakhstan is a traditional producer of spring grain.

-- Reporting for Reuters by Polina Devitt in Moscow, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana.



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