UkrAgroConsult turned up the temperature on the outlook for competition in world corn trading by forecasting that Ukraine's shipments could hit a record high, with harvest hopes raised despite a slow start to sowings.
The influential analysis group raised by 1m tonnes to 20m tonnes its forecast for Ukraine's corn exports in 2017-18, taking them above the 19m tonnes expected for this season.
The upgrade reflected a 700,000-tonne increase to 26.2m tonnes in the estimate for the country's corn production this year, besides ideas that inventories left over from last season will be smaller than had been thought.
"The harvest can be expected at 26m-26.5m tonnes, ie it will not fall from the  level," said Kiev-based UkrAgroConsult, which estimates last year's output at 26.0m tonnes.
"At the same time, the 2017-18 exportable stocks may exceed a record 20m tonnes at the expense of high carryovers and a possible rise in gross production."
The estimate of corn shipments next season from Ukraine, the world's fourth-ranked shipper, is higher than that from some other commentators, including the International Grains Council, which pegs the figure at 18.8m tonnes.
And it comes at a time of changing dynamics in world corn trading, with China running down its inventories of the grain in part at the expense of foreign purchases, and South African exports expected to recover after successive drought-hit harvests.
Brazil is widely seen returning to being a force in exports later this calendar year, after being caught out by a poor safrinha crop in 2016, although shipments from the top-ranked US are widely forecast to fall in 2017-18, as planting cutbacks curtail production.
The UkrAgroConsult revisions follow a 155,000-hectare upgrade, to 4.51m hectares, by the Ukrainian farm ministry to its estimate for the country's corn sowings this year.
"Theoretically, this expansion is possible in view of corn's high profitability," the analysis group said, if cautioning that "quite a lot will depend on the spring weather conditions".
Indeed, corn sowings started late this year, and had, at 341,000 hectares as of Tuesday, reached 7.6% of the total expected for the season – compared with 907,000 hectares, or 20%, a year before, official data show.