Black Sea wheat production could set a new record in 2021/22, with countries including Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria accounting for one-third of the global total of wheat exports.
- A record could be set by the combined Black Sea countries in the 2021/22 season of more than 123 million tonnes The current record of 128.25 million tonnes was set in 2017.
- According to Refinitiv data, wheat production in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania may be delayed because of rain. The wet weather may also affect the quality of the Black Sea grain.
- Analysts anticipate that the large harvests across the Black Sea countries will result in a fall in the price of grain.
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Countries across the Black Sea region have steadily increased their wheat production in recent years.
Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria could reach their second largest harvest in modern history during the 2021/22 season, totalling more than 123 million tonnes of wheat based on current forecasts. The current production record was set in 2017 at 128.25 million tonnes.
Wheat production in Bulgaria and Romania is collectively expected to exceed 15.5 million tonnes, despite a decline in planted area, according to outlooks from Refinitiv’s Agriculture Research team. Due to drought impacts on production in 2020, these two countries harvested just 11 million tonnes of wheat, while in 2017 and 2019 the total wheat crop exceeded 16 million tonnes.
Wheat harvest in Ukraine during 2021 may reach 29 million tonnes, according to Refinitiv estimates, which will exceed production in 2020 by 15 percent and could become a record, breaking the 2019 high of 28.5 million tonnes.
Wheat production in Russia may be lower than last year’s output by almost 10 percent and amount to 78.6 million tonnes, excluding Crimea, according to Refinitiv’s latest estimates. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture currently estimates wheat production at 80.7 million tonnes.
Weather has been largely favourable in the main regions of winter wheat production in May-June, encouraging southern Russia to expect a high, but not a record crop, according to Refinitiv’s Weather Research team. Regions where spring wheat is at risk of drought continue to require special monitoring.
The new Black Sea wheat crop is late
The weather in the Black Sea region has kept traders on their toes in recent weeks.
Rainy periods in late May and June in southern Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, on one hand, were favourable for increasing production volumes. On the other hand, the arrival of the new crop grain on the market will be delayed, on average, by a couple of weeks.
Grain harvesting in Ukraine began 10-15 days later than usual, according to market participants.
Winter and spring sowing for 2021 harvest in Russia started later than the previous season, which shifted the harvest time in many regions.
“The delay in the start of the wheat harvest is expected to be at least 15 days. This period may be extended depending on weather conditions,” a Romanian trader said.
Additionally, heavy rainfall can reduce the quality of the Black Sea grain. There is a danger of a decrease in the level of protein in wheat and the occurrence of diseases, market participants believe.
Competition is higher, prices are lower
Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria in the 2021/22 season may supply the world market with a record volume of wheat, totalling 67.7 million tonnes, according to Refinitiv.
The recovery of production volumes in Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as high beginning wheat stocks in Russia in the 2021/22 season, are contributing to the growth of the region’s export potential.
Due to the introduced export restrictions and weak exports this spring, wheat stocks in Russia are expected to be above 12 million tonnes at the beginning of the season, which is 66 percent more than last year, according to USDA’s June WASDE Report data.
For Black Sea suppliers, this means increased competition for the largest consumers in the North African and Middle East markets, given the record global wheat production in the 2021/22 season.
Bulgaria and Romania supplied wheat to Libya, Tunisia, Pakistan, Philippines, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Morocco in the 2020/21 season. Romania, in addition to the named countries, shipped wheat to Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Russia, Romania and Ukraine have been the largest suppliers of wheat to Egypt in recent years. Romania significantly increased shipments to this country in this spring, when wheat exports from Russia fell to a minimum over the past five seasons due to an export quota and a fixed export tax of 50€ per tonne. The share of supplies from Ukraine to Egypt also increased during this period.
Russia increases wheat production
Global importers expect a drop in grain prices due to the projected large harvests in the main exporting countries, including the Black Sea region.
Russia sharply increased wheat exports in June this year against the background of a reduced export tax due to the transition from a fixed 50€ to a floating rate calculation model. Russia exported 2.5 million tonnes in June 2021, which was a record export for June over the past five years, according to Eikon data.
However, the rate of the floating Russian export tax increased from $28.1 to $41.3 per tonne for the period from 2 June to 30 June this year. Russian wheat consequently became less competitive in the world market.
The Russian Ministry of Agriculture announced on 23 June that it does not yet plan to change the existing mechanism for grain exports regulation.
The traditional Russian seasonal increase in grain shipments associated with the start of the new 2021/22 season in July may not occur due to the slow export sales against the background of an increase in the floating export tax and an extended decline in world wheat prices.
The bulk of wheat harvest has not yet begun, and the purchase for exports is progressing slowly, as Russian farmers were in no hurry to cut offers.
Trading of new season Ukrainian wheat looks more active compared with the Russian crop, however, and prices of the offers remain rather high and differ insignificantly from the Russian ones.
Wheat sales from Romania and Bulgaria were strong due to lower offers. Romania offered wheat $6-7 per tonne lower than Russia at the last Egyptian tender of the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC). Egypt bought only Romanian wheat for two tenders in a row, the share of which amounted to almost 55 percent of the tender purchases of GASC in the new season.
Although Russian wheat export prices declined under the pressure of the expected large crop, the more attractive prices of the Bulgarian, Romanian and Ukrainian offers allow traders to assume that importers prefer purchases from these countries at the beginning of the season. They can return to more active Russian wheat imports later.
Russian wheat fell to $250-255 per tonne FOB Black Sea ports compared with $260-265 per tonne in mid-June for August shipment. Romanian wheat offers for August delivery have fallen from $254-258 to $243-245 FOB per tonne since mid-June.
The quality of wheat may become an important competitive factor between the Black Sea countries in the new season.
A possible increase in the share of feed wheat in the Black Sea region due to heavy rainfall may change the structure of export cargo traffic from the region by redirecting part of the volume to deliveries to consumers who are looking for an alternative to expensive corn and other protein sources.