European Union corn imports will hit their highest on record this season, underpinned by a domestic harvest even smaller than had been thought, officials said, as they lifted forecasts for rapeseed and wheat buy-ins too.

The European Commission lifted by 1.00m tonnes to 23.00m tonnes its forecast for the bloc’s corn (maize) imports in 2022-23, as started in July.

The upgrade took the estimate some 6.7m tonnes above last season’s result to the highest on record for the EU, on an ex-UK basis, exceeding the 22.58m-tonne inflow recorded in 2018-19.

The revision reflected a further cut to the estimate for this year’s drought-ravaged EU corn harvest, by 1.6m tonnes to 53.29m tonnes, taking it nearly 20m tonnes below the year-ago result, to the weakest in 15 years.

‘Pace of trade’

Indeed, the commission said that its estimates had been “adjusted on the evolution of production forecast and the current pace of trade”.

EU corn imports so far this season have exceeded 11.5m tonnes, more than double the volume as of the same time last season, as buyers have exploited the reopening of Ukraine to exports.

The bloc’s imports from Ukraine, at 4.87m tonnes so far, are more than triple the 1.47m tonnes shipped in on this route during the same period of last season.

Wheat imports

The EU has also imported, at 1.93m tonnes, soft wheat from Ukraine at a faster pace. For the same period of last season, imports from Ukraine totalled 209,000 tonnes.

The increase has left the bloc’s overall soft wheat imports to 3.04m tonnes so far, 180% above the year-ago pace, with purchases from Canada, a supplier of high-quality milling wheat, and the UK, a source in particular of feed wheat, also markedly higher.

Both countries enjoyed much improved harvests this year, with the UK estimated last week by the AHDB to have an exportable surplus of 2.25m tonnes, putting it on track to be a net exporter for the first time in three seasons.

The commission lifted by 1.00m tonnes to a four-year high of 41.50m tonnes its forecast for EU use of wheat in feed rations this season.

Rapeseed imports

The forecast for EU rapeseed imports was also raised, by 400,000 tonnes to 5.10m tonnes, as the commission trimmed its estimate of the bloc’s latest harvest, while lifting expectations for exports and for domestic use of the oilseed.

EU rapeseed imports so far this season, at 2.85m tonnes, are running 43% ahead of the year-ago pace.

Again, Ukraine has proven the top origin, providing 1.90m tonnes of that total, with Australia – which is amid what is expected to be another bumper harvest – second, on 728,000 tonnes.