Belarus to produce crops mainly for domestic use

Belarus intends to gather not less than 8.4 million tons of crops

While the world may face a global food crisis, Belarus intends to gather not less than 8.4 million tons of crops

Although it gathers respectable harvests, our country can hardly be considered a full-fledged crops exporter. In case of Belarus even a rich harvest is only enough to maintain the country’s food security at a proper level. Provided our grain bins are full, we will not have to buy bread from the neighboring countries spending foreign exchange for that. With foodstuffs becoming increasingly expensive globally, this saving strategy is akin to profit generating.

National wealth

Massive grain and leguminous crop harvesting started in Belarus at the end of last week. Farmers from Mogilev and Vitebsk regions were the last to join the harvesting campaign. By now the country’s farms have reaped slightly more than 1053.8 thousand tons of harvest. According to the Deputy Minister of agriculture and foodstuffs Vasily Pavlovsky, the forecasts are quite favorable. Collective farms are expected to harvest 8.4 to 8.5 million tons of grain while the total amount including private farmers’ contribution will reach 8.8 million tons. “This year the crop capacity is quite good and will exceed the last year’s. The crop yield is not high yet — just 3780 kilos per hectare, but the best fields have not been reaped yet. Some farms in Mosty district report crop yield of more than 8000 kilos per hectare, in Grodno district — of around 7000 kilos, a number of farms in the Brest and Minsk regions collect 5200 to 5300 kilos per hectare. If the existing conditions, quality and timing of harvesting remain the same, target volumes will be obtained,” said the deputy minister.

The weather is still favorable for the domestic producers. Meteorological services promise that dry and hot weather will stay for another weak at least. The Ministry of Agriculture argues that this good time should be used to the maximum, so harvesters will work virtually non-stop. And rightly so, because delays could result in losses. For instance, last week in some regions crops were damaged by rains, severe winds and hail. Harvesting is expected to last 18 to 24 days. Yet, if the weather is bad, the timeframes may be extended. “If it rains, the harvesting term may be extended for another week,” said the deputy minister. “It is not a problem to finish harvesting a day later, provided the quality is maintained. On those fields where crops are beaten down harvesters should be operated at low speeds, carefully collecting every single spikelet. We need to recover the money spent for sowing.” The Ministry of Agriculture representative said also that the harvest quality was a priority for the Belarusian government.

Farmers approached the harvesting season fully prepared: this year Belarusian enterprises received 745 new rape and corn harvesters while the entire fleet of harvesters totals 11.5 thousand vehicles. Drying equipment is also off-the-shelf. 73 new drying facilities are expected to become operational by August 1. The Ministry of Agriculture believes that daily gross grain harvest will total about 400,000 tons. Grain dryers’ capacity is enough to cope with this volume.

No wheat to purchase, no wheat to sale

While Belarus is expected to reap a rich harvest, some other countries might not. This time alarming news is coming from overseas: a new food crisis is beginning in the US. Corn, wheat and soybeans are perishing across the country massively. Many American corn growers find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy because of the drought. The US confronted a similar situation back in 1988 when the crops prices almost doubled. This time the surge is not that sharp: the wheat price per bushel increased just 41 % in the world markets. However, experts forecast a further price surge.

Our neighbours cannot boast a good harvest either. Unfavorable weather conditions have led to deplorable results in some regions of Russia. Talking about the prospects of the 2012 harvest Russian farmers mention that crop yield varies from region to region. For example, a state of emergency was annoucned in Stavropol krai as before the harvesting even started the drought caused a 20 billion RUR damage to the industry. However, according to the Russian Agriculture Ministry, the country’s grain harvest could reach 80-85 million tons in 2012. With carry-over stocks (16.8 million tons at the beginning of the season) this will fully provide the domestic market needs (about 71.5 million tons). Another 16 million tons — slightly below the last year’s figures — could be allocated for exports.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan predicts the average harvest in 2012 to total 18.1 million tons. This is 8.9 million tons less than the last year’s result. According to forecasts, Kazakhstan’s gross wheat harvest of will amount to 653.6 thousand tons — 146,6 thousand tons less than last year. As a result of underfulfilment of the sowing plan, the wheat deficit may total 164.4 thousand tons. The deficit can be covered by increasing imports of wheat.

According to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Economy and Antimonopoly Policy, Kazakhstan and Russia are seeing wheat price growth. However, Belarus will not make use of the wheat price advantage. “Belarus does not focus on grain exports, we mostly produce it for domestic use,” said Vasily Pavlovsky. “But if neighboring countries request our help we will sell a necessary amount of grain. For example, last year we sold 15 tons of potatoes to Tatarstan whose popato harvest was insufficient.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this year’s rich crop harvest only will be enough for ineternal needs. In the first half of this year, the livestock increased by 850 thousand head. “At the moment 1820 farms are being reconstructed and modernizated countrywide, new farms are being built. By the fall these farms should be provided with cattle. In order to make them fully operational, the feed milling industry will need at least 6.3 million tons of grain. If the livestock is firther increased, the industry will need more high-grade feed for different types of livestock,” said the deputy minister of Agriculture and Food.

Belarus intends to minimize wheat imports this year. In 2010, twelve thousand tons of wheat were imported for the baking indutry, in 2011 imports fell to just six thousand tons. This year farmers hope for high quality of winter wheat that is quite acceptable for pasta production.

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