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Ukraine wheat situation turning dire

Jeff Caldwell 10/19/2012 @ 10:10am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The wheat situation's not getting much better in a key region for that crop outside the borders of the U.S.

Agriculture officials in Ukraine this week announced that nation's farmers have wrapped up winter wheat planting. But the early completion is not necessarily a sign of farmers' speed; planted acres are well below previous estimates.

"In Crimea there is no precipitation, low required amount of moisture, but 63% of the target has sown," Ukrainian Department of Agriculture and Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food Alexander Demidov said this week, according to a government report. "In the Odessa region virtually throughout, except for a few areas, precipitation fell, and today the region sowed 81%. Odessa region plans to sow nearly 750,000 acres, and today planted 580,000."

Though those totals are low, officials expect winter barley to pick up some of the acres Mother Nature kept farmers from planting to wheat, officials add.

The lower planting output reflects the major drought stress Mother Nature's applied to the region in recent months. And it continues to be an issue; on those acres already planted, dryness could continue to send ultimate crop yield potential lower.

"Dryness persists across North Caucasus and Volga Valley, where some stress is occurring on early growth of the wheat," says MDA EarthSat Weather senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. Fortunately, he adds, some regions have seen badly needed rainfall relief, though eastern parts of the country remain severely short on moisture.

These conditions are bad news for a major player on the world wheat market, the leaders of which announced Friday that exportable wheat stocks might be exhausted by mid-November, something that has traders "cautious about concluding new contracts," according to a Dow Jones Newswires report.

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