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Corn gaining ground in Ukraine

Listen to Brandon’s World of Agriculture report on Ukraine’s switch to corn acres from wheat by clicking here.

Ukraine’s government has seen a world of potential through the seaports of Odessa. As the export market beckons, U.S. companies like Pioneer Hybrids have helped in moving Ukranian farmland from wheat to corn.

Managing Director Michael Lee lives and works near a 50,000-acre investment farm operating in western Ukraine; he says the farm is in its third year of operation on silty clay loam soils, and that the corn yields still lag. In a good year, he says yield is around 6 metric tons to the acre, equivalent to 95 bushels per acre. 5 metric tons, by contrast, translates into about 80 bushels per acre.

Corn planting began in the 2nd week of May this year, and work continued to finish by the end of June. Difficult, as planting was delayed until the first week of June, like much of the Northern Hemisphere.

As seems to be case with all corn crops, Ukraine’s has looked good from late June to early July. Lee says Ukrainian farmers have been turning to corn (there, referred to as maize) for the last three years as an alternative crop. Lee says Ukraine’s government suppresses other crops in favor of raising money for federal coffers by exporting corn, hence the uptick in acres devoted to it.

Lee also says there’s a reason corn is the next best alternative crop.

Ukraine just signed a big contract with China, so they’re looking to export – I can’t remember the numbers, but it’s a lot of maize going out to China for the next three to five years, I think, from memory, where they’ve signed a grain-for-machinery contract, or collaboration.

That “collaboration” is actually a credit-for-commodities deal signed in the fall of 2012, and similar to the oil-for-loans deals made with countries like Venezuela. In this case, the trade is a $3 billion line of credit for $3 million tons, or 120 million bushels of corn annually, to be purchased at market price.

Audio courtesy Todd Gleason with the University of Illinois.