European officials revealed a relatively upbeat forecast for Ukraine’s wheat harvest – but cautioned that the best yields were expected in the east of the country, leaving more than one-fifth of output in areas affected by war.

The European Union’s Mars agrimeteorology bureau pegged at 26.88m tonnes Ukraine’s imminent wheat harvest – well above forecasts from other commentators, if below the 32.2m tonnes achieved last ear.

Taras Vysotskyi , Ukraine first deputy agriculture minister, separately on Tuesday pegged the crop at 17m-20m tonnes, while the US Department of Agriculture on Friday stuck by a forecast of 21.5m tonnes.

Mars’ data factored in, at more than 6.5m hectares, a larger area forecast than other analysts, as well as, at 4.11 tonnes per hectare, a larger yield estimate than many investors are counting on.

East vs west

However, Mars said that its overall yield figure disguised a divide between more favourable prospects in some eastern areas – where Russia is focusing its invasion – and a weather-reduced outlook for areas further west.

“Adverse weather conditions since the start of the 2021-22 [growing] season have led to a poor yield outlook for winter crops in a major part of central and western Ukraine,” the bureau said.

“Scarce precipitation during the first quarter of 2022, particularly in the south-west, led to low soil moisture contents when the winter crops restarted their vegetative growth, which negatively affected their yield potential.”

“Overall, fair yields are forecast in the eastern oblasts, while the yields in the south-western oblasts are expected to be significantly below the historical trend.”

The flashpoint of Luhansk is one of only two Ukrainian regions expected to achieve a higher wheat yield than last year, although Donetsk yields will, at 3.76 tonnes per hectare, fall below average.

Under fire

Mars estimated that “about 22%” of the forecast soft wheat production was in “areas that are currently subject to hostilities due to Russia’s war on Ukraine”.

For winter barley, the proportion was 19%, and for rapeseed just 13%.

Ukraine rapeseed production this year was pegged at 3.75m tonnes – up by more than 800,000 tonnes year on year, backed by a jump in sowings of some 400,000 hectares to 1.41m hectares.

The bureau estimated Ukraine’s corn production this year at 35,28m tonnes, down by nearly 7.0m tonnes year on year, but still above estimates from other commentators.

“The arrival of rainfall in late May followed by increased temperatures which prevailed since early June, particularly in the eastern oblasts, allowed an acceleration of the crop
development and the biomass accumulation.”