Kazakhstan Grain Harvest expected to fall 30%

    By Damir Baimanov
    A clear picture of how much heat and drought been affecting crops surfaced Thursday when the Agriculture Ministry said this year’s grain harvest will drop 30 percent this year to 15 million tons.
    Although that is a disappointment, Deputy Minister Arman Evniev noted that the country can’t have record harvests every year, Kazakhstan Today and other news services reported. Last year growers achieved the biggest production ever – 21 million tons.
    The shortage shouldn’t have an impact on Kazakhstani consumers, Evniev said at a press conference in Astana, because the country still has 6 million tons of grain from last year in storage.
    Evniev said Kazakhstan exported 8.3 million tons of grain during the 2009-2010 season that ended recently.
    “That is 36 percent higher against the previous year,” he said.
    Evniev said he expects next season’s exports to be about 6.5 million tons, a figure that Kazakhstan has averaged in most of the past few years.
    Kazakhstan has been increasing its exports in recent years. A coup this year was sales to Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer.
    Kazakhstan is develop grain-exporting facilities on the Caspian Sea to provide an alternative to sending grain by rail to Russian and Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.
    Heat and drought are also taking a toll on Russia’s grain crop.
    Officials are forecasting a 17 percent drop from last year to 85 million tons. If drought persists, officials said, the drop could fall to 80 million tons.
    Despite this year’s troubles, Russia expects to have an exportable surplus of 20 million tons of grain, mainly wheat, thanks to big stocks accumulated from the past two years’ bumper crops.
    Meanwhile, another big grain grower, Ukraine, has been having weather problems of a different sort.
    Heavy rains have damaged crops, especially barley.
    Ukraine is expected to produce about 45 million metric tons of grain this year, down from 46 million in 2009, according to Liza Malyshko, an analyst at UkrAgroConsult.
    Growers, who enjoyed a bumper harvest last year, have lost between 300,000 and 400,000 tons of grain this year because rain battered plants and caused weeds to spread, Kazakhstan Today and other news services reported.