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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shcherbak: Harvest Well Up on 1998

The grain harvest is well ahead of last year's levels, and Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shcherbak was quoted Tuesday as saying he expected a total return of 60 million metric tons.

Shcherbak was quoted by Russian news agencies as giving this forecast after meeting President Boris Yeltsin. The ministry's forecast has been reasonably steady for more than a month.

Shcherbak forecast 55 million to 60 million tons in late June, Deputy Minister Vladimir Alginin put it at 58 million to 60 million a week ago and a ministry spokesman said Monday it would be 60 million.

At the start of the year, the ministry had hoped for 70 million tons, but that has since been cut as prolonged drought damaged crops and encouraged the development of pests, especially locusts.

The ministry said in a statement Tuesday that as of July 24, some 13.3 million tons, 3 million more than on the same date last year, had been harvested from 5.5 million hectares, up 151,000 hectares from last year.

That compares with figures of 13.343 million tons from 5.738 million hectares given by an Agriculture Ministry spokesman Monday.

The statement said that in the four days before July 24, more than 240,000 hectares were harvested daily, with 440,000 tons of grain collected.

The harvest of grains and pulses is near completion in the North Caucasus, and mowing and threshing is under way in the central Black Earth and Volga regions. Work is slightly less advanced in the southern part of Central Russia.

The harvest is just beginning in the southern Urals and in the Altai region of Siberia.

From the area harvested so far, the average yield across Russia was 2.41 tons per hectare, up 0.5 tons per hectare from 1998.

The highest yield was from the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, at 3.94 tons per hectare, up 0.94 tons from last year. Of the wheat that had been inspected for quality, 63 percent had been assessed as food wheat.

A total harvest of 60 million tons would be an improvement on last year's 47.8 million, the lowest in more than 40 years, but would still be the second lowest total since the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

In 1992, Russia produced nearly 107 million tons of grain, and as recently as 1997 harvested 88.5 million.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has cut its grain harvest forecast to 27 million tons this year, a government newspaper quoted Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Mykhailo Hladiy as saying Tuesday.

The figure compares with a previous Agriculture Ministry forecast of 28 million tons, revised downward last week from a forecast of 30 million tons due to bad weather earlier in the year and a shortage of fuel.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told a news briefing last week that the former Soviet republic would harvest 27.5 million tons of grain.

Analysts estimate the harvest will be even lower, at 24 million to 26 million tons, and said last week that the government might be forced to import food grain for the first time since independence in 1991.

But Kuchma dismissed the speculation as exaggerated and a government newspaper, Uryadovy Kurier, quoted Hladiy as saying the harvest would be enough to meet requirements.

"Despite some forecasts, Ukraine will have enough food grain and feed grain in the autumn," Hladiy said. "The situation with fuel is resolved ... now we will have enough fuel even for autumn work: sugar beet harvesting and grain sowing."

The government took urgent measures last week aimed at resolving fuel shortages, including the arrangement of urgent supplies of 300,000 tons of oil products from Russia's LUKoil.



1999 and 1998 harvests as of July 24 each year

area sown harvest yield

million hectares million tons raw* tons/ha

1999 1999 1998 1999 1998

Russian Federation 42.686 5.449 5.129 2.43 1.96

incl. the following regions:

Central 3.695 0.203 0.017 2.32 1.61

Central - Black Earth 3.806 0.997 0.337 1.58 1.67

Volga 8.232 0.812 1.246 1.19 0.91

Northern Caucasus 5.221 3.437 3.529 2.97 2.36

Western Siberia 7.432 0.0008 0.0 1.00 no data

*yield is calculated on raw collection data, which includes dirt, husks and other inedibles.

Source: Agriculture Ministry