European Union corn imports will come close to a record high thanks to the bloc’s drought-hit harvest, the European Commission said, as it also lifted expectations for sunflower buy-ins, to a 22-year top.

The commission, in a monthly briefing, raised by 1.0m tonnes to 22.0m tonnes its forecast for EU corn (maize) imports in 2022-23, as started in July – taking the figure within 600,000 tonnes of the record high set four years ago.

The upgrade, which put imports on course for a jump of nearly 6m tonnes year on year, reflected a further cut to the production estimate, of 639,000 tonnes to 54.87m tonnes.

That would represent a tumble of more than 18m tonnes from last year, and the smallest harvest in 15 years.

The commission noted an International Grains Council assessment that “severe drought considerably reduced yields, and also abandonment was above earlier expectations”.

The EU’s Mars agrimeteorology bureau earlier this week trimmed further its forecast for the bloc’s corn yield.

Import surge

EU corn users have already ramped up imports in the face of the region’s own drought-shrunken harvest, with buy-ins so far this season soaring by 112% to 9.04m tonnes, commission data show.

Of this, 5.00m tonnes has come from Brazil, with Ukraine the second-ranked origin, on 3.39m tonnes.

Imports of sunflower seed have soared even faster following a disappointing EU harvest, leaping eightfold to 881,943 tonnes so far in 2022-23.

Of this, Ukraine has provided 762,477 tonnes, equivalent to an 87% market share, with Moldova, Serbia and Argentina providing smaller amounts.

‘Higher imports from Ukraine’

Indeed, the European Commission noted the strength of imports from Ukraine, as it lifted by 400,000 tonnes to 1.20m tonnes its forecast for EU buy-ins this season – a total which would be the highest since 2000-01.

“Imports of rapeseed and sunflower seed are revised up… mainly due to higher imports from Ukraine,” the commission said.

For rapeseed, the import forecast for 2022-23 was raised by 200,000 tonnes to 4.70m tonnes, allowing this season’s crush to beat previous expectations – and rise to a record high of 23.17m tonnes.

EU rapeseed crush margins, while below summer highs, remain elevated, supported by firm prices for biodiesel, a key processing product.