Crop experiences low gluten content and high moisture levels.
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Heavy rains during the wheat growing season led to a larger crop in Kazakhstan, but quality issues such as low gluten content and high moisture levels offset the production gains, according to an Oct. 14 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

The FAS estimated wheat production in Kazakhstan in the 2016-17 marketing year at 16 million tonnes, lower than the government of Kazakhstan’s official statistics.

“Quality is a significant issue in the 2016-2017 wheat crop,” the FAS noted in the report. “Low levels of sunlight resulted in low gluten content, making much of the wheat unusable for millers. Moreover, the high moisture levels during the growing season resulted in significant losses due to rot, rust, and underdeveloped kernels. While post-harvest drying can be used to some extent, it doesn’t resolve the gluten content issue for the millers.”

Over the past several years, area planted to wheat declined to 11.7 million hectares in 2015 from 14.7 million hectares in 2009, the report noted. The decline in wheat area reflects government policies, which the FAS said have encouraged crop diversification. But wheat sown area has increased in 2016. According to the FAS report, area planted to wheat reached 12.4 million hectares in 2016, up from 11.7 million in 2015.

“This 6% increase in area is the first increase in wheat area in the last seven years,” the FAS said. “The 2016 increase in wheat area is mainly due to the cancellation of the per-hectare subsidy program. The subsidy program was cancelled, effective on Jan. 1, 2016, but was later reinstated in May 2016. However, the reinstatement was too late to have an impact on 2016 planting decisions.”

The Kazakhstani Ministry of Agriculture has indicated it still plans to discourage planting of wheat for the next few years as part of its crop diversification strategy, with a goal to reduce wheat area an additional 2.2 million hectares, the FAS said.

Food, seed and industrial consumption of wheat in Kazakhstan is expected to hold steady at 4.8 million tonnes in 2016-17, the FAS noted in the report. Meanwhile, flour consumption is expected to increase alongside gains in population. Feed use of wheat is forecast to remain flat.

“Although wheat remains the most fed grain for livestock in Kazakhstan, it is anticipated that any increase in feeding in future years will see an increased usage of barley, other feed grains and grasses as the Kazakhstani livestock sector continues to develop in feeding sophistication,” the FAS said. “Additionally, this expected change in feeding is based on the Government of Kazakhstan’s strategy to increase area to other crops. New feed mill projects were announced this year by KazAgro. However, these projects have yet to be launched. Such feed mills will likely result in a decreased use of wheat as feed.”