The European Union grains harvest will next year recover nearly all the ground lost in drought-reduced 2022, Coceral said, even as official analysts said some central European crops had been damaged by cold.

Coceral, the Brussels-based industry group, in its first forecast for EU grains production in 2023 pegged output at 282.5m tonnes, a rise of nearly 21.0m tonnes year on year.

Such a recovery would return output close to levels reached in 2021 which recorded one of the bloc’s best ever harvests, recording a result of 287.8m tonnes on Coceral estimates.

The 2023 forecast included expectations of improved results in all major grains, although especially corn, which suffered particular losses this year from drought.

‘Sudden arrival of a cold snap’

The forecast came even as the European Commission’s Mars agrimeteorology bureau, in an update on prospects for autumn-sown crops planted for the 2023 harvest, said they have been tested by the “sudden arrival of a cold snap around 20 November”.

“After an exceptionally warm autumn, especially in the western half of Europe, temperatures in the first half of December presented a significant drop,” the bureau said.

However, so far “frost damage to winter crops has only been minor, and confined to some areas in central and eastern Germany and Poland”, countries also facing “persistent rain deficits” in some areas.

Mars added that “the current steep drop in temperatures in mid-December could expose winter cereals to additional frost damage in central and eastern European countries”.

Cereals growth

Coceral forecast an increase of 3.44m tonnes to 128.9m tonnes in next year’s EU production of soft wheat, nearly all of which is winter sown – growth reflecting in the main an expansion in plantings to 22.25m hectares.

The forecast is a little more upbeat than a 128.7m-tonne estimate last week from Strategie Grains, the French-based analysis group.

Output of barley, of which most is autumn seeded, was forecast showing an increase of some 1.9m tonnes, to 53.24m tonnes, reflecting increased area and yield hopes.

Spring-seeded corn (maize) was forecast enjoying a 13.82m-tonne rebound in output to 64.54m tonnes, spurred by a recovery in yields to 7.56 tonnes per hectare, from this year’s 15-year low of 5.86 tonnes per hectare.

Oilseeds outlook

Among oilseeds, sunflowers – which, as a spring-planted and so later-developing crop, were also particularly vulnerable to yield losses from this summer’s drought – will enjoy a recovery in output next year of 825,000 tonnes to 10.61m tonnes, Coceral said.

As with corn, the recovery will be spurred by a recovery in yields, which for sunflowers slipped, unusually, below 2.0 tonnes per hectare this year.

However, next year will bring an end to the recovery in EU rapeseed production from 2019 levels which represented the lowest since 2006, after the ban on neonicotinoid insecticides left crops vulnerable to damage from voracious cabbage stem flea beetle pests.

Coceral forecast EU rapeseed output in 2023 at 18.98m tonnes, a dip of some 350,000 tonnes year on year, reflected expectations of an easing in the yield of 0.11 tonnes per hectare to 3.27 tonnes per hectare.