Planting campaign -2014 in Ukraine - against all odds
The spring crops planting campaign in Ukraine is almost completed, and it is time to sum up its results. The present article focuses on the conditions of planting works of spring crops, and what difficulties agricultural producers faced.
Puzzlesof the nature
While choosing the dates of the planting works, every spring agrarians have to balance: on the one hand, it is necessary to meet the required moisture content in the soil, and on the other - the soil should be sufficiently warmed up, and the sum of effective temperatures – to exceed the level of +10ºC. Therefore, it is difficult to guess the right moment, especially taking into account the climatic conditions of the country - abrupt change from winter to summer, the April dry hotwinds, and May heat. But in the current year most Ukrainian oblasts faced beautiful early spring, which allowed to agricultural producers to start planting two weeks earlier compared with last year. Furthermore, there was another reason for earlier planting works: many agronomists feared that insufficient stocks of moisture after the winter period will quickly evaporate, so agrarians hurried to plant all agricultural crops as soon as possible. Fortunately, the above-mentioned fears were not justified. According to many agrarians, it was the first prosperous spring regarding precipitation during many previous years. In April-May period almost the entire territory of the country faced good rains, which compensated the lack of winter moisture. Especially rains favoured agrarians of southern, central and eastern oblasts of Ukraine, where in April the drought usually begins. Although, some agricultural enterprises of southern oblasts reported that they did not face rains during the whole spring period.
As for the rates of planting works in the current year, they were rather measured compared with last year, when agrarians were forced to plant all planted areas in the shortest possible terms. As a reminder, last year March was rather cold, and the mass planting campaign started in mid-April only, and in western oblasts - even later, due to flooding.
Thus, despite the fact that in some northern oblasts of the country the planting works still continue, according to the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, as of May 29, 2014, agrarians already planted grains and pulses throughout the areas of 7.686 mln ha (95%), maize for grains – 4.758 mln ha (96%), sunflower seed - 4.449 mln ha (98%), and soybeans -1.636 mln ha (98%). Thus, we can say that the rumors about low planting results on spring crops were not justified.
However, the spring was early, but long and rather cold. Especially, spring frosts made some problems - in early April and early May 2014. Winter crops areas and spring barley were damaged, due to the first wave of frosts in late March - early April. The March cold weather practically did not have effect at the crop areas, which agrarians planted later, since the sprouts did not appear yet. The frosts were observed throughout the whole territory of the country. According to agronomists, in some areas the air temperature fell to -7-9ºC.
Thesecondwaveoffrosts took place inearlyMay, damagingsuch latecrops as maizeandsunflower seed. The minimum air temperatures in the beginning of May reached -4-5ºC. Therefore, during several weeks all market participants were strung up - what will happen to the crop areas? Fortunately, the second half of May showed more favorable weather conditions, as the temperature regime came back to the standard indices. According to agronomists, the sufficient moisture content in the soil largely contributed to crop areas recovery. In addition, some agricultural enterprises did not rely on the weather, and tried to realize all required measures to restore the plants after the reporting low temperatures. According to the polling realized by experts of APK-Inform Agency, to date nearly 97-99% of maize and sunflowers seed areas are in good and satisfactory condition.
Nevertheless, farmers agree that any damages from the frost will have negative consequences, since it is stressful for the plants. Some effects of low temperatures can be observed now, as the plants are depressed, lagging behind in growth and development. And some of the effects of spring frosts can appear in the future only. Taking into account the past experience, many agronomists agree that frostbitten crop areas are less yielding. So, agrarians do not exclude the possibility of yield reduction in the current season, although it will depend on future weather conditions.
Plantingin the extreme conditions
Also, we should pay attention to the eastern region of Ukraine (Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts), where the weather factor lost its primary importance, and the political factor came to the fore. In the current year agrarians of the region had to realize spring crops planting campaign in quite difficult conditions. Except of the worsening economic situation in the country and the lack of sufficient government support, agrarians were forced to plant crops combat-simulated terms. And nobody knows what will be the results of such efforts for agrarians. Despite the tense situation in the region, agrarians tried to plant crops throughout all planned area.
As for the weather factor, the majority of questioned agricultural producers noted that the conditions for planting of spring crops were favorable. And if we do not take into account the political and economic situation, the prospects of good harvest would be high enough.
About the costs
According to the current conditions of the crops, the future harvest should be quite sufficient. But the harvest volumes do not influence whether agrarians get the profit, informed most agricultural producers. Agrarians need not only to recoup the costs, but to receive the profit, for which they can plant new crop at new prices, i.e. to resume commodities production to receive the harvest in the following year, explained one of the respondents the formula of agrarian business. And to date each agrarian thinks what funds will be required for planting of winter crops in the autumn and spring crops - next spring. Thus, the current year brought many surprises to agrarians in the form of rising exchange rates, and the unstable economic and political situation in the country. During the spring crops planting campaign agrarians were left alone with their problems. In some cases agrarians noted difficulties in attracting credits, some banks refused to provide credits to agricultural producers. As a result, they were forced to plant spring crops for their own means, which affected the qualitative indices of fieldwork. In addition, the banks which continued crediting agrarians, increased the interest rates by nearly 5-10% depending on the financial institution and the credit conditions. Therefore, the cost of cultivation of all agricultural crops in the current season, grew by nearly 50-60%, so agrarians believe that the prices for the new crop are also expected to increase proportional to the USD/UAH exchange rates.
In the current terms, when agricultural producers are deprived of any support, they are forced to cut costs as much as possible. Therefore, in the current year fertilizers, plant protection agents, etc. will be applied at the minimum level, which will affect the yield indices. It should be noted that according to most respondents, taking into account all possible cost reductions for planting works, the milling wheat price should not be lower than 2500 UAH/t EXW, barley - 2300 UAH/t EXW.
Nadezhda Kutoley, APK-Inform Agency
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