EU cereal crop outlook seen as good despite dry spell

Paris | Reuters — Cereal crops in the European Union remain generally in good condition, despite a recent dry spell, and on course to post better-than-average yields in this year’s harvest, the EU’s crop monitoring unit said on Monday.

It cut sharply its outlook for this year’s grain maize yield in Ukraine, however, citing the effects of its ongoing political crisis.

The average soft wheat yield for the 28-country EU is projected at 5.79 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) this year, up from 5.73 forecast last month. This would be down 0.6 per cent on 2013 but 3.8 per cent above the average of the past five years, MARS said in a monthly report.

For barley, MARS trimmed the expected yield, including both winter and spring varieties, to 4.59 t/ha from 4.61 last month. This put the 2014 yield forecast down 5.3 per cent against last year’s but 2.3 per cent above the five-year average.

For grain maize, sowing of which is still in progress, MARS lifted its yield forecast slightly to 7.08 t/ha from 7.03 in April, putting it both 5.9 per cent above the 2013 level and 3.5 per cent over the five-year average.

MARS does not give area or production estimates.

Like other analysts, it said rain since the end of April had helped crops in parts of Britain, France and Germany that had experienced a dry spell from early March.

Northeast France had been a particular concern, it said.

“The dry conditions observed since March are expected to impact the crops locally, where soils are not deep,” it said of the region. “Since the end of April, these regions had a few rainfall events, leading to improved conditions.”

Crop conditions were generally good in central and eastern Europe, MARS said.

To take account of the crisis developing in Ukraine, MARS cut its outlook for this year’s grain maize yield to 5.43 t/ha from 6.03 last month, now 15 percent below the 2013 level.

Its revised outlook was close to the consensus in a Reuters poll of analysts last week, which called for a drop in Ukraine’s maize yield to 5.5 t/ha.

“The main concerns are now about the economic crisis, reinforced by the political uncertainties,” MARS said.

“As grain maize needs a lot of input and interventions in the field in order to maximise yields, it is expected to be the main crop impacted.”

Recent rain has also alleviated dryness in Ukraine that had notably affected winter wheat, MARS said. It raised its wheat yield forecast to 2.99 t/ha from 2.67 last month, but this was still down 12 percent on the year.

It cut its barley outlook to 2.25 t/ha from 2.40 in April, which would be 3.8 percent below last year’s yield, citing the impact of economic difficulties.

— Reporting for Reuters by Gus Trompiz in Paris, France.

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