POLITICAL turmoil and Russia's intensifying military interference in the Crimea region is threatening Ukraine's corn exports estimated at 3.5 million tons between now and June.
Before the unrest the former Soviet Union nation reported a record corn harvest in the 2013/2014 marketing year of 30.9 million tons.
So far 15 million tons of export corn has already been shipped, according to the U.S. Grains Council's (USGC) regional director for the Middle East and Africa, Cary Sifferath.
"Events in Ukraine will have a direct impact on U.S. farmers in the international marketplace," president and CEO Tom Sleight said in a statement from the USGC. "The Council is a global organisation and has staff and consultants around the world representing the best interest of the U.S. grain trade."
U.S. had projected in February that Ukraine's corn exports for the year will reach 18.5 million tons.
"Ports are open and vessels are loading but shipments are becoming increasingly difficult," Mr Sifferath said. "We're seeing farmers holding grain to hedge against a devaluing currency.
"We hope for a peaceful and speedy resolution of Ukraine's crisis, but the instability is creating opportunities for additional U.S. exports to North Africa, the Middle East and China."
Ukraine's winter wheat and barley were planted before the onset of the crisis, but corn planting is due to start in the next 30 to 45 days, and credit availability may become an issue, it said.
"The economic instability will affect Ukrainian farmers looking to plant this year's crop," Mr Sleight said. "Ukraine is in a tough spot financially, and planting season is just around the corner. The Council will continue to monitor this situation closely."
Earlier the Council had released a statement about the importance of strict adherence to an aggressive stewardship programme for biotechnology to minimize the risk of export trade disruption.
"Ukraine exports corn to the European Union and China, both markets in which biotechnology approval issues currently impede U.S. corn sales. If those buyers turn to the United States, it is important that non-approved events be kept out of export channels," the statement from the USGC said.
Mr Sleight commented, "It is important for all sectors of the value chain - individual farmers, technology providers, shippers and exporters alike - to recognize the potentially significant international implications of their actions."
Headquartered in Washington, D.C. the U.S. Grains Council is a private, non-profit partnership of farmers and agribusinesses who export U.S. barley, corn and grain to international markets. The Council has nine international offices that oversee programmes in 50 countries.
Source : HKSG.