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Russian Wheat Plantings Point to a Bumper Harvest This Year

If wheat plantings are anything to go by, Russia looks headed for a strong harvest this year. 

The area seeded with winter wheat, the most productive variety, increased to a record as farmers revived crop lands that had previously been abandoned, while spring wheat plantings are expected to be similar to last year. 

Another bumper Russian harvest would buttress the country’s dominance on the global export market, where it competes with other suppliers such as the European Union and the U.S.
The wheat crop could rise to 79.5 million tons this year if the weather is favorable and yields are in line with the five-year average, said Elena Tyurina, director of the analytics department at the Russian Grain Union. That would be 7% more than the previous harvest and rank as the second-biggest. 

“The larger area of winter wheat will help us get a bigger crop,” Tyurina said. “That will be possible if there are no droughts or any other weather cataclysms.” 

Part of the reason Russia was able to expand plantings is a government-aided program to restart use of abandoned crop land. Farmers expanded the area available for planting grains by 932,000 hectares from 2017 to 2019, the Agriculture Ministry said in a slide presentation at a conference this week. 

Wheat plantings are estimated at 28.7 million hectares for this year’s crop, up about 2% from a year earlier. The ministry’s planting estimates may slightly differ from Federal Statistics Service data, which are published later, Tyurina said. 

The agriculture ministry will continue to focus on the abandoned-land program this year, Roman Nekrasov, head of the ministry’s crop department, said at the conference this week.

The last time the Russian wheat area was around this year’s size was 2009, but the share of the more-productive winter wheat back then was smaller, government data show.

There’s still plenty of time for the weather to change the crop outlook before harvesting starts around the end of June. However, winter crops are in better condition than the average for recent years across the country, Nekrasov said. 

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