Drought and Heat Wave Affect EU Wheat Production

A severe heat wave and relentless drought have damaged fields and reduced crop yields across Europe. Countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Romania have been impacted and the forecast shows a smaller wheat production by comparison with the last year.

The biggest loss is recorded by Romania, with 19%, while wheat production in Poland dropped by 13% in terms of yield (tons per hectare). Germany also record smaller figures by 7.3%, while for Sweden the figures show -16%. For the UK, the production slows down with 1.8%, while for France – with 1.3%, according to statista.com.

On the other hand, Spain will have a record wheat production, higher with 47% compared with 2017, while Italy registers +1% over the production of last year.

The conditions have resulted in farmers across the EU calling for government support. For example, German farmers are calling for a special aid package of EUR1bn to help cover their losses.

The grain crop will fall 20.3% to some 36.3 million tones, the smallest since 1994, the association said in a harvest report.

“The German grain harvest will in this year for the first time in many years be below domestic requirements,” the association said, signaling an import need in Germany which is usually a major grain exporter.

Germany is among several north European countries that have suffered widespread damage to this summer’s harvest from drought and heat wave, with Germany recording the highest July temperatures since 1881.

EU wheat prices surged to 5.5 year highs last week on fears crop damage will reduce supplies in coming months. Germany is the European Union’s second grain producer after France. For example, the production for common wheat and spelt, reported by Eurostat for 2016, was of 27.5 million tones – France, 24.3 million tones – Germany, 14.3 million tones – the United Kingdom, 10.8 million tones – Poland and 8.4 million tones – Romania.

Germany’s 2018 winter wheat crop will fall 19.9% to 19.2 million tones, while the wheat crop of all types will fall 18.6% to 19.9 million tones.

On the other hand, France’s farm ministry cut its estimate of this year’s soft wheat harvest while forecasting a steep fall in maize production, underlining the impact of severe weather that has damaged farmland across Europe.

It estimated French soft wheat production at 35.1 million tones, down 1 million tones from its July forecast and 4% below 36.6 million tones harvested in 2017.

This was still above some market estimates that have put the French crop at 33-34 million tones.

The ministry said the extreme weather ahead of harvesting had led to extremely varied yields in soft wheat and as a result wide differences in crop estimates.

It reduced its estimate of the average soft wheat yield to 7.11 tones per hectare, down from 7.31 t/ha in July and below last year’s 7.37 t/ha.

In the UK, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds says that, with the GB 5 year average yield for wheat at 8.2t/ha, the early yield figures for 2018 indicate that yields are between 5-8% below the five-year average.

The harvest of winter wheat started in earnest during the week ending 31 July, with just over 400kha of crops harvested. The second AHDB GB harvest progress report shows GB winter wheat harvest to be 25% complete.
The largest area of wheat harvested has been in the Eastern region, where just over 200kha has been cut in the week ending July 31. In the South East and South West about 45% of the regional area has been harvested, accounting for 90kha and 70kha respectively.

The current yield estimates from these two regions are between 7.6-7.8t/ha. Should these early yield findings be representative of the UK, then UK production in 2018 could well be 13.5Mt, over 1Mt less than 2017.

Poland’s wheat output may fall 10% from 2017 to about 10 million tones, research company Sparks Polska forecasts.

“The winter wheat harvest started two-three weeks earlier than normal, but now it has been hampered by wet weather,” Wojtek Sabaranski of the analyst firm said, according to Reuters.

As well as slowing field work, rain around harvest time can damage wheat quality, and downpours in southeastern Europe have raised concern that exporting EU members Romania and Bulgaria may have less milling-grade wheat than usual.  

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