Heatwave seen trimming, not slashing EU grain harvest
A record-breaking heatwave in western Europe may trim grain harvest production but the searing heat is not expected to last long enough to cause the kind of severe crop losses seen during a drought last year.
The unusually early summer heatwave has gripped parts of continental Europe this week, bringing the highest temperatures on record in France on Friday.
But reaction on grain markets has been tempered by expectations that the heatwave will be shortlived, good field conditions following recent rainfall, and the fact many winter crops have already neared the end of their growth.
“We expect yields to be decreased due to the current heat wave. However, impact at this stage of development will likely be moderate at worst,” said Jose Clavijo, crop analyst with Refinitiv Agriculture Research.
Some forecasters have been reducing estimates for European Union production of soft wheat, the bloc’s main field crop, but projections generally remain above 140 million tonnes and well up from last year’s drought-diminished harvest of 129 million tonnes.
In France, the EU’s biggest grain producer, most analysts and traders were expecting limited yield losses.
“We could lose 3, 4, 5 quintals (0.3-0.5 tonnes) per hectare for wheat that was in early grain-fillng stages. At the same time it could give a boost to protein levels,” a French grain broker said.
Protein is a measure of wheat quality and important in export markets.
The hot spell could allow French wheat harvesting to get going in the coming days, traders said.
It has helped accelerate France’s winter barley harvest and early results were confirming the crop had not seen negative heat effects because it was already mature, traders added.
The torrid temperatures could stress later-developing crops like spring barley, maize and sugar beet, although an easing in heat from this weekend should bring relief.
In Germany, particularly affected by last year’s drought, traders expected only marginal cuts to harvest forecasts.
“The heat is not a big deal,” one trader said.
“The market is still confident of a good crop and we are not expecting a repeat of last year’s terrible harvest.”
In Poland, heatwave losses were also seen as moderate.
“We have reduced our previous wheat output projection by 200,000 tonnes to 10.7 million tonnes,” said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.
“Nevertheless, such a crop would still be up 9% from last year’s production.”
In Britain, which escaped extreme heat this week, wheat was in good condition and more in need of warm, sunny weather to maintain decent yields.
“Overall, conditions remain mostly favourable and an above average wheat crop is more than likely,” said Benjamin Bodart, director at CRM AgriCommodities.
Harvest prospects for rapeseed, the EU’s main oilseed crop, remained poor, however, after weather setbacks in the past year, according to analysts who expect the smallest production in a decade.
While this week’s heatwave may have come too late to cause major damage, it could prevent a late recovery in yields, they said.
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