Officials slashed their forecast for France’s corn harvest to a 32-year low, citing the impact of high input costs as well as “water and heat stress” stemming from the country’s hot and arid summer.
The French agriculture ministry cut by 1.03m tonnes, to 11.33m tonnes, the forecast for the country’s newly-started corn (maize) harvest – downgrading it to the smallest since 1990.
The revision reflected largely the “water and heat stress linked to drought and high temperatures”, which had left yields for the range of autumn-harvested crops falling “sharply” year on year, but “especially non-irrigated maize”.
“There is a sharp drop in yield caused by the drought,” the ministry said, downgrading its yield forecast by 0.56 tonnes per hectare, to 8.44 tonnes per hectare, a drop of one-quarter year on year.
“No region is spared by the drop in yield.”
‘Surge in fertiliser prices’
The reduced yield estimate tallies with the weak crop condition readings published by FranceAgriMer, the official French crop bureau, which last week pegged the crop at 45% “good” or “excellent” – holding at its lowest rating for any week on data going back to 2011.
In Brittany, just 21% of the crop was rated good or excellent – less than half the 44% viewed as “poor” or “very poor”.
However, ministry flagged too the role of high input costs in depressing plantings of what is a relatively expensive crop to grow.
The ministry reduced its estimate for French corn area this year by 32,000 hectares to a four-year low of 1.34m hectares, noting a “decline in planting, linked to the surge in fertiliser and gas prices”.
Latest official data, for May, show a 30% rise year on year in French agricultural production costs, spurred by 47% growth in fuel prices and a more than doubling to a record high in fertilizer values.
‘Strongly affected by drought’
The ministry cut too its forecast for sunflowers, another crop harvested in the autumn, with seed production now estimated at 1.86m tonnes, a downgrade of 63,000 tonnes month on month.
“Yield potential is strongly affected by drought,” the ministry said, noting that production was now expected to fall year on year, despite a “sharp” 25% expansion in sunflower sowings.
Sunflower plantings were encouraged by the boost to prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top sunflower oil exporter.
However, French sugar beet farmers were expected to reap an above-average yield this year, of 83.23 tonnes per hectare, despite the dryness, leading to a harvest forecast at 33.33m tonnes.
“Compared to other fall crops, beets are more drought resistant,” the ministry said.