Kazakh Grain Crop To Recover After Export Dip

Kazakhstan, expecting a return to average crop volumes this year, has reduced its grain export forecast to seven million tonnes in the current marketing year after its drought-affected harvest fell below expectations in 2010.

The world’s seventh-largest wheat exporter is forecasting a 2011 harvest of between 15 million and 16 million tonnes, helped by plentiful snow cover, Sagintai Zhumazhanov, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s agrotechnology policy unit, told Reuters.

While this would be a significant improvement on last year’s 12.2 million tonnes, it would still fall far short of the record 20.8 million harvested in 2009.

“We have enough grain to provide for our own needs and have around seven million tonnes left over for export ,” Zhumazhanov said in an interview, referring to the current marketing year.

“We had planned to export eight million tonnes, but that was based on expectations of a crop of 13 million tonnes,” he said. In the previous marketing year, which ended on June 30, Kazakhstan exported 8.4 million tonnes of grain.

Black Sea wheat shipments have fallen dramatically in the current marketing year after a summer drought ravaged crops across the former Soviet Union, prompting a rush from consumers in North Africa and elsewhere to secure alternative supplies.

Kazakhstan, while limited in the volumes it can supply, could help to compensate for a shortage of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, said Zhumazhanov. Buyers would have to pay a premium, he said, due to the high grain quality and steep freight costs.

“They need to come to us, although it will be a little problematic as our grain is expensive,” he said. “When there’s a poor harvest in Russia and Ukraine, these countries always purchase from us. It’s the law of the market.”

Russia’s export ban has allowed Kazakhstan to gain a little market share. Ministry data shows that, in calendar 2010, non-CIS countries accounted for 55 per cent of Kazakhstan’s total grain exports, up from 50 per cent in the previous year.

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