July 27, 2012


Drought, heat lower southeast Europe's grain output



Wheat yields in south eastern Europe have been cut and put at risk corn crops due to the extensive drought and scorching temperatures in the region, farmers and officials said on Thursday (July 26).


In Black Sea producers Bulgaria and Romania, sizzling temperatures in July when the mercury hit over 38 degrees Celsius for days, provided for quality wheat crops, but "fried" corn and sunseed sowings.


Despite some respite from occasional rainfalls in May and June, dry weather and winter cold snaps cut grain cross across eastern Europe and smaller harvests are under way in large grain producer Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.


Grain prices in Europe have surged to record highs in the past couple of months, spurred by a drought-fuelled rally on the US markets and by weather concerns at home.


In Bulgaria, the wheat crop will be 10% lower than a year ago at four million tonnes, better than initially expected. About 80% of it is with excellent milling qualities, mainly due to the favourable weather during the harvest and Bulgaria exports can reach about two million tonnes, grain industry officials say.


"The hot weather was good for the wheat harvest, but it fried the corn like it was in a pan. The corn crop will be half of what we had last year," said Angel Vukadinov, head of Bulgaria's Association of Grain Producers. Bulgaria's corn crop was 2.2 million tonnes in 2011.


In Romania, farm officials still decline to give a firm estimate of the expected wheat crop, but made clear it will not match last year's 7.2 million tonnes and raised concerns about the corn crop.


"It is clear that because of the drought, wheat output will not be the same as in 2011," Romanian Farm Minister Daniel Constantin said. "If drought continues, we risk registering quite big losses for sunflower and corn," he said.


Romania reaped a bumper corn crop of 11.5 million tonnes last year, but the heat-wave in one of its main grain producer areas, the southern county of Teleorman, has already damaged a third of the corn sowings there, a regional farm official said.


Weeks of drought are also threatening to slash Serbia's corn harvest by half, while its wheat output is expected at about 8% lower than in 2011.


Hungarian farmers collected 3.8 million tonnes of wheat from 95% of wheat sowings so far, down from 4.1 million a year ago, as spring rains helped the sowings, official data showed. Farmers there are bracing for at least a 30% cut in the corn crop, now expected at around five million tonnes from eight million in 2011, despite recent sporadic rain showers.


"Crop losses are huge and what has been destroyed by the heat so far will not come back even if it rains some more," Jozsef Vancsura, Chairman of the Association of Hungarian Grain Growers told Reuters.


Grain output of Poland, EU's fourth largest grain producer will also come about 6% less than a year ago to around 22.8 million tonnes due to winterkill and unfavourable weather in the autumn.


In the Czech Republic, where crops also suffered from cold weather and extensive dryness, the overall grain harvest is expected to be 1-1.5 million tonnes lower at 5.6-6.2 million tonnes, the country's Agriculture Chamber said.