MOSCOW- Russian farmers are expected to sow less winter wheat this autumn than record levels seen a year ago due to unfavourable weather conditions, a switch to oilseeds in some regions and concerns about the country's grain export tax, analysts said.
Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter to Africa, the Middle East and other regions. Winter wheat, sown in autumn for harvesting in summer, typically accounts for 70% of the country's crop. It brings a higher yield than spring varieties and is less vulnerable to weather.
"We sowed a little in the dry soil. We thought we would do more, but it has not rained yet," a farmer in Russia's Orenburg region told Reuters, adding that his optimal timing for sowing would expire in a couple of days.
Two other farmers in the region, located in Russia's Volga district, also said dry weather had hampered winter wheat sowing.
Recent rains have improved conditions in many regions of Russia, but the country's winter grains sowing campaign is still delayed. Farmers had sown winter grains on 7.8 million hectares as of Sept. 14, down from 8.2 million hectares at the same point a year ago, based on agriculture ministry data. There is no publicly available data just for winter wheat.
The main delay is due to the Volga which has suffered badly from dry weather, agriculture consultancy Sovecon said.
The total winter wheat sowing area could fall by about 0.5-1 million hectares, Sovecon said. IKAR, another consultancy, sees the reduction at 0.5 million hectares from 17.8 million hectares sowed a year ago.
"The sowing will be below last year's record level due to dry weather, gigantic spring reseeding in the Central (region) and the Volgograd regions with late crops which are yet to be harvested and due to new oilseed processing capacity in the Central," Dmitry Rylko at the IKAR said.
Another variable is Russia's grain export tax, which Moscow has set on a weekly basis since June as part of measures the government hopes will help to stabilise domestic food price inflation.
Some farmers have said they would reduce their wheat sowing areas in autumn 2021 and in spring 2022 due to the levy.
While there are concerns about the export tax, relatively few farmers will actually lower acreage as their businesses remain profitable due to high global wheat prices, Rylko said.
Russia's agriculture ministry confirmed to Reuters that this year's grain sowing had been delayed due to the lack of moisture in soil, but declined to estimate possible reduction of the sowing area.
It expects results of the sowing campaign in early November.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Jane Merriman) ((Polina.Devitt@thomsonreuters.com))