EU maize harvest shows mixed yields work

Maize harvesting is in full swing in Europe and the effects of summer drought are being seen in contrasting yields, which could push down production this year despite a sharp increase in plantings, analysts said.

Forecasters have made steep cuts to their estimates of the European Union-wide maize harvest due to drought, and consultancy Strategie Grains last week reduced its outlook to below last year’s production.

Romania has suffered particularly from drought, with the country now seen harvesting around 10 million tonnes, some 40 per cent below last year.

In France, drought also hit yields as many crops endured an extremely dry July during the crucial flowering stage, crop institute Arvalis said.

“For the 65 per cent of the grain maize area that is rain fed, we’re seeing a bit of everything, from the very poor to some excellent yields where there were storm showers,” Thomas Joly, head of maize at Arvalis, said.

“For irrigated crops, yields are satisfactory to excellent.”

France’s Agriculture Ministry last week reduced its production forecast for grain maize, excluding seeds and crops used for on-farm fodder, to 13.5 million tonnes from 14.1 million in September.

That would still be six per cent above last year’s output on the back of a 10 per cent jump in area as farmers switched to spring-planted crops after rain-disrupted drilling of winter crops like wheat.

Arvalis and growers’ group AGPM estimated the crop slightly higher at 13.6 million tonnes, as they saw very good results in Brittany helping keep the national yield in line with last year’s.

Farmers had harvested 77 per cent of the grain maize area as of Monday, according to farm office FranceAgriMer, although traders say frequent showers this week may slow field work.

In Poland, there was now concern about harvest rain.

“A dozen or so days of dry and sunny weather are needed to make rapid harvest progress,” said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“The moisture level in kernels is very high, which makes threshing difficult,” Sabaranski said.

Poland’s crop should reach about 4.5 million tonnes, close to last year’s 4.55 million tonnes, he forecast.

In Germany, market expectations are for a nine per cent rise in grain maize production to about four million tonnes, as yields recover from last year’s low levels.

“The harvest will be up by about 400,000 tonnes on the year which will take a slice off import requirements,” one analyst said.

“Harvesting is going well, although marginally late, with no serious problems on a national level.”

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