The European Union is poised for more of the hot and dry weather which prompted officials to slash to a seven-year low their forecast for the bloc’s corn yield, while downgrading hopes for soybean and sunflower crops too.

Rainfall “will be restricted” in Europe over the next week, “while temperatures are warmer than usual”, if falling short of recent highs which broke records in France and the UK, weather bureau World Weather said.

“Net drying is expected in the majority of the continent,” with western Europe to stay dry and warm in the first week of August, when some more eastern areas will see rain.

“The bottom line in Europe will remain one of concern for areas from Hungary to Greece and in France, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany Belgium, Netherlands and Portugal,” World Weather said.

“Too much warm and dry weather will maintain crop and livestock stress even through temperature extremes will not be as great as those of the past.”

Seven-year low

The forecast comes amid growing worries over damage from the conditions autumn-harvested crops – notably corn, for which the EU’s Mars agrimeteorology bureau on Monday cut its yield forecast by 0.62 tonnes per hectare to 7.35 tonnes per hectare.

Compared with European Commission data, that would represent the weakest result since 2015-16.

Factoring in the commission area estimate of 9.13m hectares, the yield figure on GrainPriceNews calculations implies a harvest of 66.2m tonnes, which would represent a fall of 6.5m tonnes year on year, and be the smallest crop in five years.

Mars also cut its hopes for this year’s EU sunflower yield by 0.19 tonnes per hectare to 2.18 tonnes per hectare, and for soybeans by 0.27 tonnes per hectare to 2.72 tonnes per hectare, in both cases dragging the forecasts below five-year-average levels.

‘Drought and heat stress’

Mars said that it had “substantially reduced” its outlooks for autumn-harvested crops “due to continued hot and/or dry weather conditions in large parts of Europe”.

The last month had been “marked by extremely hot and dry conditions in several regions of Europe”, with damage “most pronounced in regions that were already affected by long-lasting rain deficit”.

These included “large parts of Spain, southern France, central and northern Italy, central Germany, northern Romania, eastern Hungary” as well as, outside the EU, “western and southern Ukraine”.

The conditions had come at a sensitive developmental point for crops, with the bureau reporting that “apart from direct impacts on growth, drought and heat stress in several regions coincided with the flowering stage, resulting in reduced flower fertility”.

It also noted that “water reservoirs are at a very low level”, boosting the threat to irrigated crops of further dryness.

‘Severely affected’

For France, the EU’s top corn producer, Mars downgraded its yield forecast by 0.31 tonnes per hectare to 8.90 tonnes per hectare, warning that “the dry conditions since early July, combined with the heatwave in mid-July, have affected the condition of maize and sunflower crops during the flowering stage”.

The outlook for second-ranked grower Romania was cut by 0.36 tonnes per hectare to 5.53 tonnes per hectare, warning that rainfall levels of 30-80% below the long-term average over the past month “led to exceptionally poor soil moisture conditions in several major producing regions”.

However, third-ranked producer Hungary received a particularly large yield forecast downgrade, of 2.23 tonnes per hectare to 5.52 tonnes per hectare, thanks to “strong drought impacts” in eastern areas.

“The continued drought conditions in eastern Hungary severely affected the winter and summer crop outlooks,” Mars said, adding that an “upcoming heatwave may degrade even more” yield prospects.