Friday, 19 May 2017

Latest spring planting figures for Ukraine

Ukraine’s grain and leguminous crops stand at 6.8 million hectares or 94% of the planned 7.2 million hectares.

This includes 172,000 hectares of spring wheat or 97% of the forecast and 1.56mha of spring barley or 95% of the forecast.

Other crops include 5.1mha of sunflowers or 95% of the forecast, 4.2mha of corn 94% of the forecast, with the earliest crops up to leaf five, and 1.7mha of soya or 88% of the forecast.

Sugar beets plantings are up at 309kha or 106% of the forecast.

Russia’s Belgorod region open for business

Earlier this week the Governor of Belgorod held a meeting with a delegation from embassies of the UK, US, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the Republic of South Africa.

The delegation spent two days in the Belgorod getting acquainted with the investment climate and researching the possibility of partnerships in agro-industrial projects.

According to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, the foreign representatives were particularly interested in horticultural and agricultural biotechnology and vegetable greenhouse production, while the Belgorod representatives noted that there are opportunities in dairy farming, aquaculture and processing of agricultural products.

The Governor of Belgorod said, “We are open to dialogue and cooperation and look forward to the same constructive attitude of your business” and “In the coming years we plan to plant thirty-two thousand hectares of gardens [orchards] and provide one million tons of apples, build at least five hundred hectares of modern greenhouses, to take at least 15-20% of the Russian market of greenhouse vegetables. So, welcome in Belgorod! This is good for everyone!"

Heady stuff.  If you’re interested in investing in Belgorod or elsewhere in Russia give me a call, I might be able to help you get started.

Russia' agricultural bank provided $1.1bn preferential loans

Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture reports that as of the beginning of May, the agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, had issued 63 billion roubles ($1.1bn) in loans to agricultural enterprises under the preferential lending mechanism which provides funding at the low rate of 5%.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, these soft loans are aimed at financing seasonal work which contributed to the quality of the spring sowing campaign.

I might have lost this in translation but 63 billion roubles seems like a lot considering the loan mechanism was only agreed in January and last month the Ministry was complaining the scheme wasn’t working fast enough.

If it is accurate then it makes the Rural Payments Agency look like rank amateurs.

The state-owned JSC Rosselkhozbank was founded in 2000 and is one of the largest and most stable banks in the country in terms of assets and capital.

Latest spring planting figures for Russia

As of May 17, Russia’s spring sowing stood at 27.9 million hectares or 52.9% of the forecast.

Spring grain crops have been sown on an area of 16.6mha, or 53.5% of the target area including 4.9mha of spring wheat, 5.4mha of spring barley and 2.4mha of corn.

Other combinable crops plantings include 4.4mha of sunflower or 62.0% of the forecast and 1.0mha of soybean or 44.4% of the forecast.

Sugar beet planting is nearly complete at 1.1mha or 100.1% of the forecast, potatoes are 140kha or 41.7% of the forecast and 91.6kha of vegetables which represents 45.0% of the forecast.

Ministry of Agriculture of Russia: spring sowing held on an area of 27.9 million hectares (52.9% of the forecast)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

USDA forecast lower Russian wheat crop

USDA have published their latest forecast for Russian wheat at 67.0mmt, down 5.5mmt from last year’s record output although it would still be the second-highest wheat harvest on record.

Back in March, after we travelled 1,200km across Russia, we rated the post winter crop to be in very good condition with no significant winter losses and pegged the yield at 64.7mmt with an export potential of 28mmt.

The USDA 2017/18 harvested area estimate is 27.5 million hectares, up 0.5 million hectares from last year and yield is forecast at 2.44mt/ha, 9% down on last year’s record but 5% above the five-year average.

Winter wheat accounts for around half of the country’s total wheat area and the latest spring wheat plantings are running at 4.3 million hectares or 30% of the anticipated final hectares.

In ten days we will tour the Russian grain belt to make our latest crop assessments and update our yield forecast, our findings and dedicated Twitter account are available to crop tour subscribers so be sure to sign up if you are looking for an independent, muddy boot yield assessments.

There’s only so much crop analysis you can do sitting in an office staring at a computer.

Email blackseacroptour@gmail and I’ll reply with information on our tours and how to subscribe to access the results.

April weather summary for western FSU

During April, wet weather maintained or boosted already favourable yield prospects for winter wheat from southern and eastern Ukraine into western Russia.

In particular, 50 to 100 mm of rain (100-285 percent of normal) was reported over primary winter wheat areas from southern Ukraine into southwestern Russia.

In contrast, short-term drought intensified in northern Ukraine, where April rain tallied less than 50 percent of normal.

This marked the third consecutive month of below normal precipitation in north-central Ukraine, further reducing soil moisture for corn planting and establishment.

April weather summary for eastern FSU

Mild conditions lingered into April in the north’s spring wheat areas, while beneficial rain and mountain snow fell in southern portions of the region.

Temperatures during April averaged 1 to 2°C above normal over spring wheat areas of northern Kazakhstan and neighboring portions of Russia, allowing snow to melt by month’s end and early fieldwork to commence.

Farther south, moderate to heavy rain and mountain snow (25-180 mm liquid equivalent) boosted irrigation supplies for cotton planting and establishment in southern Kazakhstan and eastern Uzbekistan.

In addition, the wetter-than-normal weather (100-400 percent of normal) sustained favorable supplemental moisture for irrigated winter wheat as it progressed through the reproductive phases of development

April weather summary for Europe

Near- to above-normal April rainfall maintained good to excellent prospects for vegetative winter grains and oilseeds over eastern growing areas.

During April, precipitation totalled 100 to 300 percent of normal from Poland into the Danube River Valley, though somewhat drier conditions (less than 75 percent of normal) were noted in the central Balkans.

In contrast, unfavourably dry conditions in Spain, France, and England reduced soil moisture for reproductive wheat and rapeseed, with precipitation during the month totalling a meagre 5 to 30 percent of normal in many growing areas.

Dryness concerns were compounded by a protracted late-season cold snap from April into early May, as a multi-day hard freeze (-9 to -2°C) was noted in many major production areas.

Crops most at risk from freeze injury included: heading to flowering wheat in northern Spain; heading winter wheat in northern France; and flowering winter rapeseed in northeastern France.

Rain in early May eased soil moisture deficits for winter crops in France, but unfavourable dryness lingered in Spain and England.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ukraine reports a new record for grain exports

As of May 17, Ukraine recorded a new record, exporting 39.14mmt of grain, 120,00mt more than the entire previous marketing year.

This included 16.28mmt of wheat, 5.14mmt of barley and 17.5mmt of corn, and in addition to grain, Ukraine exported 306,000mt of flour.

USDA forecast a lower Ukraine wheat crop for this harvest

The latest USDA World Agricultural Production report on Ukraine, released last week, makes some interesting points.

The report forecasts a yield of 3.79mt/ha (56bu/acre), which is 9% below last year’s record but 5% above the five-year average, and goes on to say that abundant soil moisture will support an above-average wheat yield for 2017/18, pegging their latest estimate at 25.0mmt, down 1.8 million from last year.

Back in March, after our first tour of the season, we pegged Ukraine’s wheat crop at 25.2mmt with an export potential of 13mmt.

The USDA report goes on to say that although fall dryness delayed winter-wheat plantings and reduced the time available for crop establishment, the melting of unusually deep snow cover replenished subsoil moisture reserves and benefited winter crops as they resumed spring growth which broadly fits with our findings during our November and March tours.

From 29 May, we will be touring the region again to make our own completely independent assessment of Ukraine’s wheat yield prospects and will make our findings available to our crop tour subscribers.

You could go and check it out yourself but as we only charge £350 for ten full tour reports commissioned throughout the season making each report cost £35, you’d probably spend that on breakfast at the airport on the way out.

Email blackseacroptour@gmail and I’ll reply with information on our tours and how to subscribe to access the results.

Black Sea countries look to steady price volatility

The second meeting of Agriculture Ministers of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) took place in Istanbul earlier this week.

The meeting was devoted to the theme of sustainable development, food systems, the future of aquaculture, and included discussions on food security for future generations, the development of regional trade, and reducing the negative impact on the environment.

During the meeting, the ministers touched upon the issue of price volatility of agricultural products and agreed that price stability is a very important goal for the BSEC region.

Considering that Russia and Ukraine collectively produce around 12% of the worlds wheat crop and Russia ranks fourth in the world in terms of wheat production after the EU, China and India, and ahead of the US, then any efforts to try and smooth out price volatility could have far reaching consequences.

(BSEC member countries are Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine with observing countries including Austria, Belarus, Egypt, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, the United States, Tunisia, France, Croatia, the Czech Republic and the European Commission.)

China to invest $1.2bn in Belarus

Chinese businessmen have plans to invest more than $1.2 billion in the Belarusian food processing industry, according to the Belarusian Agriculture Minister.

One point two billion, surely that can’t be right, that’s like 2% of the GDP and would buy a lot of Belarussian dairies and sausage factories.

However, it was reported on the Belarus state-owned national news agency, БелТА, so it must be true, who then go on to say that one of China’s largest companies have signed a document declaring their intention to invest around $1 billion in the Belarus economy.

The Belarussian Agriculture Minister is reported as saying China is interested in products made in Belarus as they want to get them from a country they trust as part of their import substitution effort.

Not entirely sure how importing food from another country constitutes import substitution but one planned project is for China to invest $200 million in the construction of facilities to produce milk in Vitebsk Oblast then ship the processed milk to China.

All sounds a bit smoke and mirrors to me.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Rain returned, maintaining good to excellent prospects for winter wheat while improving soil moisture for summer crop planting and establishment in previously-dry portions of Ukraine.

In southern Ukraine, light showers (2-10 mm) sustained soil moisture supplies for jointing to heading winter wheat.

Meanwhile, beneficial rain (10-20 mm) in north-central Ukraine eased soil moisture deficits following a protracted dry spell (locally less than 50 percent of normal over the past 90 days), though more rain will be needed to fully ease the impacts of this spring’s acute dryness.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, 10 to 40 mm of rain maintained good conditions for recently-planted soybeans (west) and sunflowers (east).

In southwestern Russia, 10 to 40 mm of rain sustained excellent prospects for winter wheat as it approached or progressed through the reproductive phases of development.

Freezes during the period (-3 to -1°C) over the northern half of the region were not a concern for winter wheat, which was in the freeze-tolerant tillering and jointing stages of development in these more northerly growing areas.

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

Despite occasional showers, the planting of spring wheat (north) and cotton (south) was able to proceed without significant delay.

Spring wheat is typically sown in early to mid-May in central Russia and northern Kazakhstan (a bit sooner in the southeastern Volga District), and this week’s light to moderate showers (2-10 mm) did not significantly impede planting efforts in Kazakhstan and Siberia District.

Somewhat heavier showers (10-20 mm) in the Russia’s Urals District likely slowed fieldwork somewhat, though delays were not protracted.

Farther south, irrigated winter wheat progressed into the early filling stage of development in eastern Uzbekistan in good to excellent condition.

In addition, scattered showers (2-20 mm) in Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan did not significantly delay cotton planting efforts.

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Widespread rain maintained or improved prospects for reproductive winter crops across much of the continent, though the moisture was generally too late for wheat and barley in Spain.

An active weather pattern featured light to moderate showers (2-20 mm) in northern Europe, while locally more than 30 mm fell across the southern third of the continent.

The moisture was timely for reproductive winter wheat and rapeseed in central and northern growing areas, particularly in areas beset with spring dryness from central and northern France into Germany.

While drier conditions (less than 3 mm) lingered in southeastern England (where 90-day rainfall has averaged 50 to 60 percent of normal), well-timed showers were overspreading the United Kingdom on May 15.

Likewise, soil moisture was in good supply for recently-sown corn, soybeans, and sunflowers from Spain and southern France into Italy and the Balkans.

Nevertheless, the wet weather was too late to offer much benefit for filling to maturing winter wheat and barley in central and northern Spain, where dryness and spring heat have lowered yield prospects.

Another big Russian wheat crop on the way

Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture reports accumulated fertiliser stocks up 10% more than last year which points to another big Russian crop this harvest.

While it’s too early to call the spring sown crops as just under 50% are still to be planted, my sources across Russia are quietly telling me their wheat is looking good.

Recent rains should now take it over the finish line, barring a catastrophic heat wave or a plague of locusts (both of which could happen).

We’ll be touring Russia in two weeks and will get a fuller picture then but I have noticed that less rain this season compared to lasts suggests we won’t see the same level of lodged crops and diseases.

Which also suggests improved quality for new crop wheat which could encourage discounts for old crop still languishing in sheds which won't be getting any better the longer it sits there.

Russia and Belarus held talks to resolve trade dispute

Russia and Belarus held talks yesterday to try and resolve the current dispute over Belorussian exports of food products to Russia. 

Previously, Russia’s agriculture watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor's had inspected several Belorussian enterprises and then promptly banned the import of many Belorussian products over food safety concerns.

The outcome of yesterday’s meeting appeared to be inconclusive and seemed to focus on Belarus adopting an electronic system of veterinary certification within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Which probably what the spat is really about rather than anything to do with food safety.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Black Sea Crop Tour back on the road

The Black Sea Crop Tour bus hits the road again in precisely two weeks time.

We will travel 2,000km through Russia and Ukraine to assess the post planting condition of corn, sunflower and soya and the ongoing condition of wheat just ahead of harvest and to make our latest yield forecasts.

As usual we will post pictures, video and commentary on the members only Twitter account so subscribers can see what we are seeing in a comprehensive and totally independent tour of the region.

We will follow this up with full written reports after finishing the road tour.

After this tour, we have three more lined up through the rest of the season to assess the major commodity crops condition at key stages through the growing cycle.

All this insight for only £350 for the year, drop me a line at blackseacroptour@gmail for subscription details.

Monday Black Sea agribusiness news

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China is willing to strengthen strategic coordination and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with Kazakhstan.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan is willing to deepen cooperation with China in such areas as trade, agriculture, mining industry, railway, and technology.

The two leaders met and made the comments at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing yesterday.

The agriculture ministries of Belarus and Russia will hold a working meeting in Moscow today to try and resolve the current dispute over Belorussian agri-exports to Russia.

You may recall that Russia’s agriculture watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor's inspected several Belorussian enterprises which then resulted in Russia banning imports of many Belorussian products over food safety concerns.

Turkey will resume wheat imports from Russia today just a few days after the trade dispute between the two countries was settled.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister said opening of the Turkish market will allow Russia to increase its grain exports in the current agricultural year which have lagged behind expectations and with new crop harvest weeks away it’s unlikely exports for the current marketing year will reflect the record crop from last year.

Ukraine grain exports reached 37.2mmt for the current marketing year, 9% more than same period last year.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Russia continues to protect its tomatoes

During talks in Sochi last week, Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan agreed to lift almost all the restrictions on bilateral trade between the two countries.

During the meeting, Putin said the Russian embargo on Turkish tomatoes would remain, explaining that it is in the interest of Russian farmers.

"Our agricultural producers had taken out large loans and credits. This is a rather long production cycle, which in our climatic conditions is related to the construction of greenhouses," the Russian leader explained while Russia’s Deputy PM chipped in saying the tomato embargo may continue for another three to five years.

So, it looks like I hit the nail on the head last week when I suggested the reason why Russia is standing firm on Turkish tomato imports is because finance for construction of Russian glasshouses is already committed.

Not entirely sure how this sits with WTO rules but as no one seems to pay any attention to the WTO it probably doesn’t matter anyway.

Currently the Russian harvest of greenhouse vegetables stands at 200kmt which is 80% more than last year so I think Russia’s policy on vegetable production, in particular tomatoes, is fairly clear for the next few years at least.

Before the introduction of the restrictions, Turkey was the largest supplier of tomatoes to Russia, presumably those Turkish tomatoes will now be seeking a new home elsewhere, possibly in the EU so watch out for the knock-on impact on tomato producers elsewhere.

Latest spring planting figures for Ukraine

Ukraine’s early sowing of spring grains and legumes is in the final stages with 2.3 million hectares or 98% of the forecast planted.

This includes 168,000 hectares of spring wheat or 95% of the forecast and 1.56mha of spring barley or 95% of the forecast.

Other crops include 4.2mha of sunflowers or 78% of the forecast, 3.5mha of corn also 78% of the forecast and 1.1mha of soya or 56% of the forecast.

Sugar beets plantings are up at 306kha or 104% of the forecast and our friend buckwheat is progressing with 34kha in the ground representing 24% of the forecast.

Latest spring planting figures for Russia

As of May 10, Russia’s spring sowing stood at 16.5 million hectares, or 25.3% of the forecast.

Spring grain crops have been sown on an area of 7.7mha, or 31.4% of the target area including 1.9mha of spring wheat, 3.8mha of spring barley and 1.9mha of corn.

Other combinable crops plantings include 2.8mha of sunflower or 39.3% of the forecast and 623kha of soybean or 27.5% of the forecast.

Sugar beet planting are nearly complete at 1.1mha or 92.7% of the forecast, potatoes are 80kha or 23.8% of the forecast and 66kha of vegetables which represents 32.4% of the forecast.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Sunny skies prevailed over much of the region, promoting fieldwork and winter crop development.

High pressure extending from Scandinavia into western Russia maintained dry, warm weather (2-5°C above normal) over much of the region, promoting the development of vegetative to heading winter wheat following recent rainfall.

The sunny, mild conditions also favored corn and sunflower sowing, though showers (10-40 mm) in western Ukraine slowed soybean planting.

Despite the overall good to excellent conditions for winter crops, a lack of rain in north-central Ukraine exacerbated short-term drought (25-50 percent of normal rainfall over the past 60 days), leaving soil moisture in short supply for corn planting and emergence.

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

Sunny skies favored spring grain planting in the north and winter wheat development in the south.

Early spring grain planting was able to proceed without delay due to dry, warm weather (1-4°C above normal) in central Russia and neighboring portions of northern Kazakhstan.

Farther south, irrigated winter wheat progressed through the reproductive stages of development in eastern Uzbekistan in good to excellent condition, with above-normal year-to-date precipitation providing abundant supplemental moisture for crop development.

In addition, the dry weather during the past week promoted cotton planting in Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan.

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Wet weather benefited vegetative to reproductive winter crops, while the impacts - if any - of recent hard freezes remained unknown.

The recent late-April and early-May hard freezes were mostly a threat to flowering rapeseed in northeastern France and reproductive winter wheat in northwestern Spain.

However, whether the recent freezes caused any burnback or damage remained unknown, as it can take weeks for crops to exhibit the full extent of freeze injury.

During the past week, freeze concerns were reduced as temperatures moderated somewhat, with freezes (-3 to -1°C) mostly confined to northeastern Germany and northwestern Poland.

More importantly, much-needed rain (5-40 mm, locally more) returned to southeastern England, France, and northwestern Spain, improving soil moisture for reproductive wheat and rapeseed after a dry start to the spring.

Farther east, widespread showers (2-30 mm, locally more) sustained good to excellent prospects for vegetative to reproductive winter grains and oilseeds from Germany and Poland into the Balkans.

The wet weather also sustained favorable soil moisture for recently-planted corn, soybeans, and sunflowers, but slowed late sowing efforts.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Friday AM Black Sea agribusiness news

The first batch of Turkish onions has been sent to Russia after Putin and Erdogan agreed to cancel mutual trade restrictions.

The lifting of restrictions includes Russian grain to Turkey however Russia insisted on keeping restrictions on Turkish tomato imports and postponing the reintroduction of a visa-free regime for Turkish nationals.

So while it looks like the trade dispute between the two countries is over for now don’t be too surprised if it flares up again the future.

As of May 4, the gross yield of greenhouse vegetables across Russia amounted to 200,700mt which is almost twice the same date last year and includes 32,500mt tomatoes (up from 18,000mt in 2016).

Russia is planning to build 200 hectares of greenhouses this year which goes someway to explaining why Russia is standing firm on Turkish tomato imports as I assume the finance for construction is already committed.

Louis Dreyfus have opened a grain terminal in Russia’s Rostov region, completed in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The terminal is located on the river Don with a total storage capacity of 50,000mt and will be used for the transhipment of grains on sea-river vessels with an initial annual export capacity of 800,000mt, aiming to exceed 1 million tonnes over time.

At the opening of the terminal Margarita Louis-Dreyfus said, “We are convinced that Russia will remain a dominant player in the global agricultural markets”.

The Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament has voted not to increase annual quotas for imports of Ukrainian wheat, tomatoes and urea saying the EU should continue offering trade preferences to Ukraine but some agricultural products do not require additional support by the EU.

Following on from the fertiliser shortage in Ukraine story I posted last month (here), I keep hearing rumblings that it is a real problem.

My take on it is that there was sufficient supplies and stocks of nitrogen fertiliser to feed the winter crops last month but now spring plantings are in full swing we might see complaints increase if there is a problem as suppliers fail to deliver on orders.

Meanwhile across the pond all eyes are on Kansas after heavy snow and freezing conditions occurred in the key winter wheat production areas on crops that looked to be at heading stage.

The Kansas wheat tour running this week had many tweets suggesting there will be a yield penalty but it’s too early to tell how much at this stage.

Later this month we kick off the second Black Sea crop tour of the season looking at spring crops and wheat which also had snow dumped on it a couple of weeks back.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Beneficial rain in southern and central growing areas contrasted with developing dryness in northern Ukraine.

A slow-moving storm system produced 10 to 50 mm of rain from southeastern Ukraine into southern and central Russia, maintaining abundant moisture supplies for jointing winter wheat.

A second area of moderate to heavy rain (10-40 mm) boosted moisture supplies for vegetative spring grains in Belarus and northwestern Russia.

Despite the active weather pattern, rain bypassed areas from Moldova into central Ukraine and Russia’s Central District.

The dryness was welcomed in Moldova and Russia, where precipitation over the past 60 days has totaled 100 to 200 percent of normal.

However, the lack of rain in north-central Ukraine exacerbated developing short term drought (25-50 percent of normal rainfall over the past 60 days), leaving soil moisture in short supply for corn and sunflower planting and emergence.

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

Spring grain planting gained momentum in the north, while showers maintained excellent moisture supplies for crops in southern growing areas.

Early spring grain planting was able to proceed without significant delay despite scattered showers (5-30 mm) in central Russia and northern Kazakhstan.

Farther south, winter wheat approached or progressed through the reproductive stages of development in Uzbekistan in good to excellent condition, with above-normal year-to-date precipitation providing abundant supplemental moisture for crop development.

However, showers slowed cotton planting in eastern portions of Uzbekistan (10-20 mm) and southern Kazakhstan (10-500 mm).

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Hard freezes posed a risk to reproductive winter crops in western growing areas, while soaking rainfall boosted soil moisture but hampered fieldwork from southern Spain into Poland.

For much of the week, a stationary frontal boundary was the focus for moderate to heavy rain (10-50 mm, locally more) from southern Spain into Poland.

The wet weather improved soil moisture for recently-planted corn, soybeans, and sunflowers, but impeded late sowing efforts.

Furthermore, heavy to excessive rain (40-170 mm) in southern Spain (Andalucía) was detrimental for filling to maturing wheat, while totals approaching 100 mm in northeastern Italy and northern Slovakia caused localized flooding.

North of the front, unseasonably cold, dry weather prevailed across much of central and northern Europe.

Crops most at risk for freeze damage included: flowering winter wheat and barley in northern Spain (5 nights of subfreezing low temperatures since April 18, with readings as low as -9°C); heading winter wheat in northern France (8 nights of freezes since April 17, with values as low as -5°C); and flowering rapeseed in northeastern France (9 nights of freezes since April 17, with a minimum of - 7°C).

The full extent of freeze impacts - if any - will not be known for days or weeks, until producers are able to inspect fields.

However, crop-stage estimates (based on growing degree day data) suggested crops were progressing through key reproductive stages of development in the aforementioned areas during the cold snap.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Tuesday AM Black Sea agribusiness news

Belarus wants to send its inspectors to Russian agricultural companies, the country’s Minister of Agriculture told Belarus TV.

The statement came as a response to a series of inspections, organized by Russia’s agriculture watchdog after Moscow imposed restrictions on imports of Belorussian products.

It's unlikely Russia will accommodate such a request in what appears to be a tit-for-tat response as relations between the two countries remain poor.

The Russian vertically integrated meat and feed producer, Cherkizovo Group, has completed the acquisition of one of Russia’s leading grain producers, NAPKO.

Cherkizovo Group, listed on the London and Moscow stock exchanges, is one of Russia’s top three companies producing chicken, pork and processed meat and is the country’s largest feed manufacturer.

The transaction worth $85.6 million, increases Cherkizovo Group’s total operating land bank to 287,000 hectares.

Russia may lose its status as the top wheat export due to the trade crisis with Turkey.  

Turkey was the second largest buyer of Russian wheat, so if Russia fails to reach an agreement with Turkey, the volume intended for that country will be redirected to other markets, which will take time, according to Russia’s Deputy Agriculture Minister.

Russia’s early wheat harvest begins in June which will only add to the already high carryover stocks.

A four-year project funded by USAID is seeking to boost credit lending to agriculture in Ukraine and improve the quality of the financial services and products offered to farmers.

Launched in April, the project is designed to strengthen the credit union sector in Ukraine in order to improve the quality of the financial services offered to farmers and other agribusinesses in rural areas.

Good idea but my experience of credit facilities in Ukraine is collateral and interest rates are both prohibitively high particularly for the smaller scale farmers.

A Ukrainian-German company has invested $1.1 million installing solar panels inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone which should start producing electricity by the end of June with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts.

The Ukrainian government wants to install enough panels inside the exclusion zone to produce 2.5 gigawatts - equivalent to about half the capacity of the plant before the fourth reactor exploded in 1986.

The solar project is partly viable because of the infrastructure left over from the Soviet era, including networks of power lines.

Low land rents are also plugged as an incentive.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Friday AM Black Sea agribusiness news

The Belarusian Ministry of Agriculture will respond to complaints lodged by the Russia food safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, after representatives of the Russian agency inspected several Belarusian enterprises.

This is part of an ongoing spat between the two countries which has resulted in Russia banning imports of many Belarussian products over food safety concerns which has been rigorously denied by Belarus.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister has pledged to create favourable conditions for Chinese businesses in Ukraine saying he is committed to sparing no effort to create conditions for effective cooperation and there is talk of creating China's first modernized agricultural park in Ukraine, whatever that is.

Worth reminding ourselves that back in 2013 China announced (here) they had reached an agreement with Ukraine to buy three million hectares of farmland which was immediately refuted by Ukraine saying it had all been a big misunderstanding and what they had actually agreed to was to investigation cooperation in a three thousand hectare drip irrigation project, so I wouldn’t take too much notice of these announcements until something concrete happens.

Ukraine exported 10.5mmt of grain in the first quarter of 2017, 18% more than the same period last year making 2016/17 grain exports a record high.

Belarus has planted 823,300 hectares of spring cereals and pulses so far or 88% of the forecast which is about the same as last year.

Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said on Wednesday that Moscow hoped to reach a compromise with Turkey over grain exports within two weeks.

Russian pig production continues to rise with a 5.3% increase in the first quarter of 2017 for pigs for slaughter in live weight compared to the same period last year and amounted to more than 1 million tonnes.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Russia seek grain exports compromise with Turkey

Reuters are reporting the Russian Agriculture Minister, Alexander Tkachev, as saying Moscow hoped to reach a compromise with Turkey over grain exports within two weeks.

Turkey is the second largest buyer of Russian wheat after Egypt and the top buyer of its sunflower oil so the pressure is on to find a resolution.

Turkey implemented a de facto ban on purchasing Russian grain by imposing high import tariffs in March.

Tkachev said a delegation of Russian officials plan to discuss agriculture supplies with officials in Ankara on Thursday, report Reuters.

Black Sea crop tour planned for next month

With Russia and Ukraine spring planting well underway we are turning our thoughts to the next crop tour of the season.

During the latter part of May, I will tour across Russia and Ukraine to look at the emergence and condition of corn, sunflower and soya crops.

At the same time, I will also look at the condition of the cereals, primarily wheat and will be talking to several farmers to see how the season has panned out so far and how they see harvest working out.

During the tour, I will be posting pictures, video and commentary on a subscribers Twitter account so you can see what we are seeing and I will follow this up with a full report including production forecast for the main crops.

The subscription cost is £350 which will also give you access to the other tours planned for later this season.

If you would like to support us and follow the only independent crop tour operating in the Black Sea region or you have any questions then drop me a line (blackseacroptour@gmail.com) for subscription details.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Russia's concessional agri-loans project turns to IT

The Ministry of Agriculture of Russia are having another go at pushing through their concessional agri-loans projects, this time by turning it into an IT project.

Back in January, Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the state agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, signed an agreement on the implementation of preferential crediting for agricultural enterprises but it appears the banks are dragging their heels implementing the scheme.

To address the problem the Russian Ministry of Agriculture is developing an information system to automate and speed up the loan application process by eliminating paper work.

Now "Russian Ministry" and "eliminating paper work" are not two phrases you normally see in the same sentence so I'm not entirely how that's going to work out.

Plus we can all think of our own government departments that have turned to technology in an effort to speed up and streamline the process only to find that it ends up doing precisely the opposite.

Undaunted, the Ministry is forging ahead with a pilot version which will be launched later this week.

"The use of information system will optimize the registry processing" said the Director of Development Department and the management of public information resources, Igor Kozubenko.

Do you want to tell Igor or shall I?

Russian spring field work underway in all regions

Spring field work is being reported as underway in all Russian regions including the Siberian and Ural federal districts.

As of April 25, Russia spring sowing stood at 6.7 million hectares, or 12.6% of the forecast.

Spring cereals and legumes seeded on an area of 3.8 million hectares or 12.3% of the target area including 1.8mh of spring barley, 469kha of spring wheat and 807kha of corn.

Sunflower planting stands at 1.0mha or 14.4% of the forecast and soybean at 52kha or 2.3% of the forecast.

Sugar beet stands at 645kha or 57.2% of the forecast, potatoes 34kha or 10.2% and 38kha of vegetables or 18.7% of the forecast.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Moderate to heavy precipitation alleviated lingering dryness concerns in Ukraine and sustained favorable crop prospects in Russia.

A slow-moving storm system produced 10 to 80 mm of rain and wet snow from Moldova and south-central Ukraine into central Russia, while a trailing cold front triggered light to moderate showers (5-25 mm) in southern Russia.

The precipitation in Ukraine continued to improve wheat prospects following a protracted dry spell during late winter and early spring.

In southern Russia, soil moisture supplies for vegetative winter wheat remained good to excellent.

However, the wet weather hampered summer crop planting across Moldova, southern Ukraine, and much of Russia, while corn and soybean planting in northern and western Ukraine was able to proceed without significant delay where rain was lighter (less than 5 mm).

In the storm’s wake, chilly weather (3-6°C below normal) settled over much of the region, though the accompanying hard freezes (-10 to -2°C) likely had little widespread impact on agriculture.

Latest USDA weather update for eastern FSU

Mild, showery weather kept soils favorably moist for early spring grain planting.

Across central Russia and neighboring portions of northern Kazakhstan, this season’s snowpack melted during the early to middle part of April, allowing producers to begin preparing fields for spring grain sowing.

During the past week, light to moderate showers (2-15 mm) maintained good soil moisture for early wheat and barley planting, while temperatures up to 5°C above normal ensured there was no late-season snow to impede early fieldwork.

Farther south, 10 to 30 mm of rain maintained adequate to abundant moisture reserves for vegetative winter wheat in Uzbekistan, while late-season mountain snow boosted irrigation reserves for early cotton planting and establishment.

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Increasingly dry conditions in western Europe contrasted with beneficial rain in central and eastern areas.

A persistent ridge of high pressure maintained mostly dry weather from southeastern England and France onto the Iberian Peninsula.

Short-term dryness has become a concern in southeastern England, France, and - to a lesser extent - western Germany, with rainfall over the past 30 days totaling 10 to 50 percent of normal.

However, winter wheat and rapeseed were still in the vegetative stages of development and yield potential had not yet been adversely impacted.

In Spain, longer-term dryness (10-50 percent of normal over the past 60 days) and warmer-than-normal temperatures (up to 7°C above normal) have adversely impacted wheat and barley in the reproductive (north) to filling (south) stages of development; as a result, yield expectations have likely been reduced.

Meanwhile, a series of slow-moving storms brought widespread soaking rainfall (10-75 mm, locally more) from central and southern portions of Germany and Poland into the Balkans and eastern Italy.

The wet weather slowed the planting of summer crops (corn, soybeans, sunflowers, and cotton) but maintained excellent moisture supplies for vegetative winter grains and oilseeds.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Russia plant 6.4 million hectares

As of April 24 Russia spring sowing stood at 6.4 million hectares, or 12.2% of the forecast.

Spring field work began in all regions, except for the Siberian and Ural federal districts.

Spring cereals and legumes seeded on an area of 3.7 million hectares or 11.9% of the target area including 1.8mh of spring barley, 427Kha of spring wheat and 793kha of corn.

Sunflower planting stands at 997kha or 13.9% of the forecast and soybean at 52kha or 2.3% of the forecast.

Sugar beet stands at 629kha or 55.7% of the forecast, potatoes 33kha or 9.9% and 37kha of vegetables or 18.4% of the forecast.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Monday AM Black Sea agribusiness news

Russian Ministry of Agriculture say the total volume of issued credit resources for seasonal field work rose to 104.76 billion roubles, which is 13.3% more than in the same period last year.

As of April 20, Russia spring sowing stood at 5.8 million hectares or 11% of the forecast.

As of April 21 Ukraine spring sowing stood at 2.8 million hectares or 39% of the forecast.

Dagestan takes second place in Russia for rice production.

Belarusian farmers started planting spring rape for the 2017 harvest with 3,000ha planted so far.

Paris-listed AgroGeneration, which farms about 100,000 hectares in Ukraine, reported full-year (EBITDA) earnings  of €19.4 million for 2016, dipping from €19.9 million in 2015.

Russia’s largest vertically integrated agriculture holding company, Rusagro Group, which farms about 600,000 hectares, reported Q1 results for sugar up 26%, meat up 31%, agriculture up 9% with oil and fat segment down 25 %.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Ukraine's Ministry report cool weather did not affect yield of winter and spring crops

Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture report that this week’s cold weather did not significantly affect the yield of winter and spring crops.

Although it's probably too early to tell with certainty and the Ministry admit they haven't actually checked crops yet, but I tend to agree.

It might have hurt winter barley which we noted looked poor on our last crop tour back in March and oilseed rape would be at risk although most of that is grown in west Ukraine and escaped the worst of the weather front.

The Ministry do say there are questions about perennial crops which are in the flowering bud stage such as apricots, cherries and peaches. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Russian agribusiness news in brief

Russia’s Minister of Agriculture gave a report on the priorities for agricultural in 2017 which include increasing efficiency of state support, credits for farmers, technical renovation, developing new farm lands, improving rural life, soil cultivation, selection and genetics, and agricultural cooperation.

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture has highlighted the development of domestic seed production as a priority during a meeting on improving seed variety testing with 55 representatives from the research organisation FGBU Gossortkomissiya.

Russian milk production increased by 1.5% in the first quarter of the year compared to last year and reached 6.41mmt.

Russia’s Minister of Agriculture held a working meeting with the heads of the major oil and fat enterprises during which he said the oil and fat industry is one of the most successful in the Russian agro-industrial complex and that Russia ranks second in the world in terms of export of sunflower oil.

USDA assume 2017 weather will be closer to average than 2016, and forecasts Russia’s 2017 grain and pulses production at 110mmt, a seven percent decrease from the 2016 crop but higher than the previous five-year average of 98mmt.

Cold weather and snow fall on Wednesday stopped field operations across much of central Russia, forecast show temperatures returning to double figures so crops are unlikely to be affected and planting will resume without any significant delay.

As of April 19, Russian spring sowing stood at 5.5 million hectares, or 10.5% of the forecast with planting taking place in all regions, except for Siberian and Ural federal districts.

Is there a fertiliser supply problem in Ukraine?

Back in January this year I posted a blog (here) wondering if Ukraine had inadvertently engineered a fertiliser shortage.

The crux of the issue was should Ukraine delay the introduction of anti-dumping duties on Russian fertiliser until after parliament had passed a bill conferring zero duties on nitrogen fertiliser from other countries.

I signed that blog off by saying it was worth keeping an eye on the story then thought nothing more of it and, as I heard nothing else, assumed the story had resolved itself and the problem had gone away.

Then yesterday I was contacted by someone asking if I could confirm news on a fertiliser shortage in Ukraine as a contact of his in Kharkov had not received an order and the factory had closed.

While it’s not entirely unusual for suppliers in Ukraine to renege of orders (I once had a fertiliser company completely disappear, their office was literally empty when we went back) it did make me think of my January fertiliser shortage blog.

Then this morning, Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture announced that Ukrainian farmers are provided with fertiliser for the full range of spring field works with a whole load of statistics to back this up.

But then go on to say that farmers are worried about the shutdown of Ukrainian chemical enterprises as they must make full upfront payments for any nitrogen fertilisers orders and that farmers hoped for a quick recovery of factories to be able complete the contractual obligations to supply fertiliser in full.

Sounds like it’s still worth keeping an eye on this story.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

USDA March weather summary for Europe and FSU

Europe
Near- to above-normal temperatures and precipitation during March sustained good to excellent prospects for winter crops.

The warmth (2-5°C above normal) accelerated winter crops out of dormancy several weeks ahead of normal across northeastern Europe and maintained faster-than-normal development elsewhere.

Widespread showers improved soil moisture for wheat and rapeseed from France and southern Germany into the Balkans following a drier-than-normal winter.

In Spain, dry weather in the north (25-50 percent of normal) contrasted with beneficial rain in the south (locally more than 200 percent of normal), resulting in mixed yield prospects for winter wheat and barley.

Western FSU
During march, conditions were favorable for winter wheat in Russia, while short-term drought developed in central Ukraine.

Mild, wet March weather eased crops out of dormancy in central Russia and promoted earlier-than-normal wheat development in southern portions of the country.

In contrast, pronounced dryness (10-25 percent of normal) further reduced soil moisture for vegetative winter wheat in central and southern Ukraine.

However, the dry weather allowed sowing of spring grains and summer crops to get off to an early start.

Meanwhile, locally more than twice the normal monthly rainfall in western Ukraine and Belarus boosted moisture reserves for spring grains and summer crops.

Eastern FSU
During March, seasonably cold, snowy conditions prevailed in the north while rain and snow boosted moisture supplies for dormant winter wheat in the south.

Central Russia and neighboring portions of northern Kazakhstan remained covered by a deep snowpack for much of the month as seasonal cold (readings occasionally below -20°C) prevailed over the region.

Farther south, rain and snow (100-200 percent of normal) maintained adequate to abundant moisture reserves for dormant to early vegetative winter wheat in Uzbekistan.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Widespread showers maintained or improved prospects for winter wheat.

In the primary winter wheat areas of central and southern Ukraine, a second consecutive week of rain (5- 25 mm) further improved soil moisture for vegetative winter wheat following a protracted dry spell during late winter and early spring.

In southern Russia, moderate to heavy showers (10-30 mm) maintained good to excellent conditions for vegetative winter wheat and kept soils moist for corn and sunflower planting (sown in late April and early May, respectively).

Farther west, 5 to 20 mm of rain maintained good early-season soil moisture for spring grains and summer crops in Moldova, Belarus, and western Ukraine.

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Warmer-than-normal weather prevailed, with beneficial showers in northeastern Europe contrasting with increasing dryness in western growing areas.

High pressure maintained dry, warm weather (2-8°C above normal) over the western half of the continent.

While the sunny skies promoted spring grain planting as well as winter crop development, short-term dryness (25-50 percent of normal precipitation over the past 30 days) has continued to reduce soil moisture over Spain, France, southeastern England, and western Germany.

The lack of rain is particularly untimely in Spain, where winter grains are approaching or progressing through the reproductive stages of development.

Meanwhile, a series of disturbances produced widespread showers (5-25 mm, locally more) in eastern Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and the northern Balkans, sustaining favorable moisture for vegetative wheat and rapeseed.

Dry weather from Italy into southeastern Europe promoted seasonal fieldwork, including early planting of corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Russia latest spring planting numbers

Russian spring sowing stand at 4.7 million hectares or 9% of the forecast with work underway in all regions except Siberia and the Ural federal districts.

Spring cereals and legumes seeded on an area of 2.8mha or 9% of the target area, including spring wheat on 296,500ha, spring barley on 1.5mha and corn on 403,000ha.

Sunflower plantings stand at 685,000ha or 9.6% of the forecast while soya stands at 17,300ha or 0.8% of the forecast.

There are 526,500ha or 46.6% of the forecast sugar beet planted and in Rostov the first 100ha (0.7% of forecast) of rice has been planted.

Potatoes planted on 31,400ha or 9.3% of the forecast and vegetables 33,300ha or 16.3% of the forecast.

Ukraine latest spring planting numbers

Ukraine has planted 2.6mha of spring crops or 36% of the forecast (7.2mha).

This including early spring grain and legumes sown on an area of 2.2mha or 94% of the forecast 2.4 million hectares and is made up of 155,000ha of spring wheat (86% of forecast); 1.5mha of spring barley (92% of forecast); 192,000ha of oats (93%) and 372,000ha of peas (113%).

Sunflower planting is well underway with 1.3mha or 24% from a forecast 5.4mha planted, corn is just getting underway with 342,000ha or 8% of the forecast 4.5mha, while soya planting has hardly started with 31,000ha or 2% planted thus far.

Sugar beet planting stands at 263,000ha or 90% of the forecast which to my mind seems incredibly early and makes me wonder how much of that crop will bolt and go to seed given we could still see some cold temperatures in April.

Russian banks urged to accelerate concessional loans

Back in January, Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the state agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, signed an agreement on the implementation of preferential crediting for agricultural enterprises.

Today the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture urged banks and regions to accelerate work on concessional loans.

It appears that banks, which had been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture to participate in the scheme, are taking a long time to consider loan applications and are providing borrowers with an incomplete set of documents to obtain government support.

I'm no finance expert but it sounds to me like banks are, unsurprisingly, not too keen to participate in the Ministry plan lend money at 5% when previously they would have commanded 20-30%.

Black Sea agribusiness news in brief

Russian wheat export prices were flat last week, supported by a 1.6% rise in the rouble against the dollar, according to IKAR.

Last month’s total market year grain exports stood at 27.6mmt, down one million tonnes on the same point last year.  Russian grain exports for April are expected to remain low due to Turkey no longer buying Russian grain because of Russia's unwillingness to lift a ban on Turkish tomatoes.

Ukraine’s Kernel Group is finalising the purchase of the Ukrainian Agrarian Investments holding company.

listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Kernel handles about 7.0mmt of agricultural commodities per year and supplies grain and sunflower oil.  If the deal goes ahead Kernel would become Ukraine’s largest land user with a land bank of 700,000 hectares.

Ukraine has completed applying fertiliser to 7.1mha of winter grains and 872,000ha of winter oilseed rape. Spring cereal planting stand at 2.2mha from an expected 2.4mha while corn, sunflower and soya planting has started across the country.

Meanwhile spring cereals and legumes planting in Russia are reported at 2.8mha with other spring crop planting underway in most regions although the Deputy Minister of Agriculture has reported that climatic conditions in the Volga Federal District has delayed spring field works.

Kazakhstan are also reporting the late arrival of spring in the southern regions has forced farmers to revise the dates of spring field work there. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Ukraine continues to support farming

Ukraine’s Minister of Agriculture, Taras Kutovyi, has presented the year’s results to the Parliamentary Economic Committee with the main achievements including state support, market expansion, land reform and privatization of state enterprises.

"Budget support has increased 15 times - this year is $5.45 billion - and 1% of agricultural production will be directed to support farmers, this program is fixed for 5 years" said Kutovyi.

The Minister said that Ukraine significantly increased foreign trade of agricultural products to $19.6 billion or 26% of the total foreign trade.

Other points noted by the Minister was Ukraine produced 66mmt of grain and that the agricultural sector is the driving force for the economy.

Expect Ukraine to keep producing and exporting more agricultural products.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Dry weather was replaced by welcome showers in western growing areas by the end of the period.

In the primary winter wheat areas of central Ukraine, developing spring drought was abated by late-week showers (10-35 mm).

The rain improved early-season prospects for vegetative winter wheat, though southern and eastern portions of Ukraine were bypassed by the heaviest rain (amounts mostly less than 5 mm).

Farther west, widespread showers (5-30 mm, locally more) sustained adequate to abundant moisture supplies for spring grain and summer crop planting in Moldova, western Ukraine, and Belarus.

In southern Russia, sunny skies during the first half of the period favored the development of vegetative winter wheat, while late-week showers (2-20 mm) kept soils moist for corn and sunflower planting (sown in late April and early May, respectively).

Despite the generally mild spring to date, snow has been slow to melt in the Volga District, with more than 25 cm still on the ground in central and eastern portions of the region.

Latest USDA weather update for Europe

Warmer-than-normal weather prevailed, with beneficial showers in eastern Europe contrasting with renewed dryness in western growing areas.

High pressure centered near the British Isles maintained dry, warm weather (up to 4°C above normal) over the western half of the continent.

While the sunny skies promoted the development of vegetative winter wheat and rapeseed, short-term dryness (25-50 percent of normal precipitation over the past 30 days) has reduced topsoil moisture for crop development from southeastern England and northern France into western Germany.

Farther south, dryness also remained a concern for vegetative to reproductive winter grains in northern Spain, though crop prospects are better in southern portions of the country due to near- to above-normal fall and winter precipitation.

Meanwhile, light showers (3-10 mm) were welcomed in northern Italy, improving topsoil moisture for corn and soybean planting and establishment.

In central and eastern Europe, a series of weak disturbances produced widespread albeit highly variable showers (2-30 mm, locally more) from eastern Germany, Poland, and Lithuania into the Balkans.

The rain improved soil moisture in the upper Danube River Valley and maintained favorable early-season prospects for vegetative wheat and rapeseed elsewhere.

Despite the clouds and showers, weekly average temperatures up to 5°C above normal encouraged a faster-than-normal crop development pace over the eastern half of the continent.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Ukraine crop update

As of April 7, Ukraine had planted the first 4,000 hectares from the planned 1.9mha of soyabeans.

Sugar beet stood at 158kha from the planned 293kha and 348kha of sunflower from the planned 5.4mha

Early grain and leguminous crops are ​​2.0mha from 2.4mha including 134kha of spring wheat from a planned 190kha; 1.4mha of spring barley from 1.7mha and 163kha of oats from 208kha.

Peas stood at 339kha from the planned 276kha which just goes to show the concept of centrally planned cropping is in fact a myth.

Fertiliser has been applied to ​​7.0mha of the forecast 7.1mha of winter cereals and ​​859kha of the forecast 872kha of winter rape.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Ukraine looks to France to understand food markets and pricing

Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food met with French experts who shared their experiences in commodity market research, pricing and margins in the food sector.

"It is important to understand all the pricing link [between] fields to store shelves and margins for producers, processors and sellers. This understanding allows you to find a reasonable balance between all market participants and the need to provide affordable and quality food” said Ukraine’s Deputy Minister Elena Kovaleva demonstrating a clear lack of understanding how markets work in the real world.

If the retail price food was determined by the cost of production plus a “reasonable” margin then we wouldn’t have dirt poor farmers going out of business every day of the year or only functioning because of huge state handouts.

I’m not entirely sure the French or any EU country dependent on massive state handouts to subsidies farmers and food production are the best people to talk to when looking for examples of good agri-economic food pricing practice. 

My advice would be to talk to New Zealand, they have some experience of operating an agricultural policy without subsidies; tell them you're interested in buying beef livers and I reckon there'll be a delegation on the first available flight.

The long term solution to food pricing, in my opinion, is to increase the retail price of food and educate people to understand that soil has more value than gold and good food comes at a cost and takes precedent over cigarettes, magazines, booze and the latest ultimately disappointing must have piece of crap technology.

OK, maybe not booze, booze is still made out of food.