European Union officials underlined the strength in the region’s corn prices, even as they slashed their forecast for the bloc’s corn harvest by 6.5m tonnes, and as the French crop condition rating dipped to a record low.

The European Commission reported that prices of corn (maize) had bucked an overall trend of falling prices over the past month, which had seen for instance feed wheat prices dip by 6.3% in Romania and durum dip by 8.4% in Spain, although milling wheat held steady in the German port of Hamburg.

“Last month we observed an overall drop in the EU grains prices mainly due to reassuring news on the reopening of certain Ukrainian Black See ports as well as on the usual harvest pressure,” the commission said.

However, corn had been the “exception”, thanks to dryness which had undermined prospects for the forthcoming harvest.

“[The] drought situation in many regions in Europe affects maize yields, pushing domestic prices up, in particular in France where maize prices increase by 13.4% month-on-month,” to E336 per tonne.

French woes

The French crop has suffered particular damage from drought, with separate data on Friday from the country’s FranceAgriMer bureau showing a further decline in the country’s corn condition rating by 3 points week on week, to 47% “good” or “excellent.

That is the lowest reading for any week on data going back to 2011, and indeed the first time that less than half French corn has been rated good or excellent.

One-quarter of the crop is now rated in “poor” or “very poor” condition, led by a 43% reading for Brittany, in the north west of France.

‘Downward revisions of yield’

The commission lowered by 6.51m tonnes its forecast for the overall EU corn harvest this year, to a seven-year low of 59.32m tonnes, citing in part weaker expectations for France.

The downgrade was made “mainly on downward revisions of yield for Romania, France, Bulgaria, Hungary”, the commission said, echoing the latest findings of its Mars agrimeteorology bureau, as released earlier this week.

The commission cut to 6.61 tonnes per hectare its forecast for this year’s EU corn yield, down from a forecast last month of 7.22 tonnes per hectare, although in line with a Mars estimate of 6.63 tonnes per hectare.

Imports impact

The commission added that the weakened harvest outlook would have an impact on trade, saying that “higher maize imports and lower maize exports are projected on lower expected domestic production”.

The forecast for EU corn imports for 2022-23 was lifted by 3.5m tonnes to 20.0m tonnes – up by 3.7m tonnes year on year and the highest since the 22.58m tonnes imported four seasons ago.

EU corn imports have started the season apace, reaching 3.24m tonnes in the first eight weeks of the season, up by 58% year on year.

Brazil is, providing 1.73m tonnes, the top origin, with Ukraine in second place with 1.24m tonnes.