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Commission publishes updated crop yield forecast: July heat waves and drought reduce European crop yields

Commission publishes updated crop yield forecast: July heat waves and drought reduce European crop yields

An updated analysis by the European Commission, through its advanced crop yield forecasting system, shows that the particularly hot weather in July has significantly affected this year’s EU crops productions. Compared to the previous analysis performed at the end of June, the European crop monitoring system now depicts a further reduction of crops. In comparison with the 2005 campaign, the main crop yields affected are: soft wheat (-4.0%), winter barley (-2.0%), grain maize (-5.1%), potato (-4.3%) and sugar beet (-3.0%). The total cereal production is expected to be about 9 M tonnes (-3.6%) even lower than 2005’s reduced yields. In terms of production, Germany, Poland, UK, France and Italy appear to be most affected. Compared to the 2003 drought, the geographic area affected by the yield reduction is greater, whereas the overall loss in production is less severe.

The forecast published today by the Commission provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the European Union, comparing these with last year’s production and the average harvests over the last five years. It also identifies the areas most affected by drought and heat stress and compares the situation with past extreme events.

Frequent and persistent heat waves associated with dry conditions characterised the whole month of July. At the same time, the drought and the heat stress phenomena moved northward through the continent affecting particularly those areas where the winter crops were still at their sensitive stage (ripening/maturity). Both in southern and in northern Europe, the spring-summer crops, in full vegetative to flowering phase, were suffering from the above-mentioned conditions. All this also had an impact on water reservoirs, reducing the irrigation resources mainly for grain maize, sugar beet and potatoes.

At EU level, comparing with the 2001-2005 averages, the Commission forecasts a potential yield decrease for soft wheat, barley and maize respectively of 2.3%, 4.6% and 0.1%; for spring barley a potential decrease of 7.4% is forecasted. For durum wheat, instead, the forecast depicts a potential yield increase of 2.0%. The overall yield reduction appears even larger in comparison with the previous campaign.

In terms of production, the most important areas affected by the unfavourable weather conditions are: Germany (-1.8% for wheat yield compared to 2005, -5.6% for barley, -9.0% for potato, -4.6% for sugar beet), Poland (-9.6% for barley yield compared to 2005, -13.4% for soft wheat, -5.0% for potato), UK (-9.0% for wheat yield compared to 2005, -7.9% for potato, -4.5% for barley, -1.3% for rape seed) France (-3.0% for soft wheat compared to 2005, -1.4% for winter barley, -4.0% for rape seed, -1.8% for sugar beet) and Italy (-8.6% for soft wheat yield compared to 2005, -7.5% for grain maize, -9.6% for sunflower and -25.3% for sugar beet).

Compared to the 2003 drought, the geographic area affected by the yield reduction is greater mainly because in the northernmost regions, high temperatures affected the crops earlier and in their more sensitive stages of development. However, water shortage started later and therefore the yield reduction is lower for the majority of crops (except spring barley).

Depending on the weather conditions that will prevail in the second half of the summer as well as the possible irrigation restrictions for maize, the total cereals production can still vary by +/- 3-5 M tonnes.

Dry conditions in May, which worsened in June and July, also affected permanent forage areas (pastures and grassland), green forage and green maize in most of Europe. Even though some limited areas are severely affected, the overall situation is not as severe as in 2003.

Berta Duane | alfa
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