Prospects for European Union corn production have “deteriorated drastically” amid hot and dry weather, Strategie Grains said, as it slashed its forecast for the harvest to the lowest in 15 years.

The influential analysis group sliced 10.0m tonnes from its forecast for the forthcoming 2022-23 EU corn harvest, leaving it at 55.4m tonnes – a result which would be lowest since 2007.

The downgrade in harvest prospects for the world’s fourth-biggest producer, after the US, China and Brazil, reflected a cut of 1.0 tonnes per hectare, to 6.2 tonnes per hectare, in the yield estimate, thanks to persistent drought and high temperatures which have stressed crops in major growing countries.

“The outlook for the 2022 crop grain maize harvests across Europe has deteriorated drastically,” Strategie Grains said, in comments which come even as parts of the bloc are preparing for a fresh heatwave.

‘Too much warm and dry weather’

World Weather said that European rainfall “will be restricted over the next full week while temperatures are warmer than usual.

“Net drying is expected in the majority of the continent, but especially in France, the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal and from the lower Danube River Basin to Hungary.”

The weather service added that “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.

“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.”

Soaring imports

The EU is now on course for 14.4m-tonne drop in corn production year on year, on Strategie Grains estimates, at a time when output of other crops has also been undermined by the weather – if with winter grains, now largely harvested, having less exposure to the dry and hot conditions.

With the EU soft wheat crop was forecast falling by 6.5m tonnes year on year, to 123.3m tonnes, and decline expected for the likes of barley, durum and rye too, the bloc’s overall cereals output this year was forecast tumbling by 25.1m tonnes year on year, to 265.0m tonnes.

The disappointing harvest has spurred a jump in EU corn imports, which Strategie Grains now sees at 20m tonnes in 2022-23, an upgrade of nearly 3m tonnes from last month’s estimate, and an increase of 2.2m tonnes year on year.

EU corn imports for the first six weeks of 2022-23 have already reached 1.99m tonnes, up by 45% year on year, according to European Commission data, which show Ukraine as the top origin for the purchases, with nearly 900,000 tonnes, a little ahead of Brazil.

Separately, Italy was revealed this week to have made a 105,000-tonne corn purchase from the US, an announcement that Agritel said “reinforces the expected increase in corn imports for the coming marketing year in Europe”.