Unfavourable weather conditions have dominated the European Union’s grain production landscape all season, with a significant proportion of the continent facing a seriously challenging spring and summer to keep the grain production outlook on track.

According to the European Union’s latest JRC MARS bulletin, large parts of western, northern and eastern Europe have suffered due to excessively wet conditions since the 2023 autumn. This has negatively impacted the planting, emergence and development of this season’s winter crops. Additional damage was recorded in many parts of northern and eastern Europe from a series of severe frost events in December and January.

The prolific rain events also made it extremely difficult for farmers to access their paddocks to spread fertilisers, make the required herbicide, fungicide and pesticide applications to winter crops and prepare the seedbed for the spring planting program. The most severely affected fields in the north are expected to be resown with spring or summer crops, but in the south, the impact will manifest primarily in a reduction in winter crop yield potential.

Conversely, the winter crops in the eastern parts of Romania and Bulgaria are suffering from an enduring rainfall deficit. The winter rapeseed crops are the worst affected, and there appears little hope of a recovery to average output, with an expansion in the affected area highly probable in the absence of significant rainfall.

Following Europe’s second warmest boreal autumn on record, the winter months of December, January, and February also saw warmer-than-usual temperatures across all but the north of the continent. The average daily temperature recorded south of the 56 degrees north latitude averaged between two and four degrees Celsius above the long-term average (1991-2023). Temperatures up to two degrees Celsius below the long-term average were recorded throughout most of Scandinavia.

Late last month, the European Commission released its first supply and demand projections for the 2024/25 season, pegging total cereal, oilseed and pulse output at 316.2 million metric tonne, 3.3 per cent or 10mmt higher than the current season. This is off a total planted area of 64.1 million hectares, marginally higher than the 64 million hectares planted in the 2023/24 campaign. Despite some yield losses due to the drenching conditions, the total cereal, oilseed and pulse production outlook still compares favourably with the five-year average of 314.5mmt.

Cereal production is expected to be 9mmt or 3.4 per cent higher than the 2023/24 crop at 278.8mmt, with the planted area of 50.6mmt fractionally higher than the 50.3mmt sown for the 2023/24 harvest. The oilseed component of total production is forecast to be 1.42 per cent, or 0.5mmt lower at 33.4mmt off an almost unchanged planted area of 11.9 million hectares. Pulses occupy a relatively minor proportion of crop area in the EU of 1.7 million hectares, and output is expected to be 3.4mmt, down from 3.9mmt in 2023/24.

The biggest crop across the European Union each year is soft wheat, and 2024/25 output is currently forecast to be 120.8mmt, 4.9mmt or 3.9 per cent lower than the previous season and 4.8 per cent lower than the five-year average of 126.8mmt. Durum wheat production is also expected to be down next season at 6.7mmt compared to 7mmt in 2023/24 and the five-year average of 7.4mmt. These forecasts are off planted areas of 20.9 million hectares and 2 million hectares for soft and durum wheat, respectively, down 3.7 per cent and 8.8 per cent.

The lower wheat output is more than compensated by a significant recovery in the barley production outlook. The EC forecasts the barley crop to yield a total of 53.7mmt, 6.2mmt or 13 per cent higher than in 2023/24 and 1.5mmt, or 2.8 per cent above the five-year average. The planted area is estimated to be 3.5 per cent higher year-on-year at 10.7 million hectares.

Among the minor cereal crops, triticale production is projected to be 1.9 per cent lower season-on-season at 10.8mmt, oats output is expected to be 19.6 per cent higher at 7mmt, and rye production is estimated at 7.6mmt, 2.3 per cent above that of 2023/24. All are around 3 per cent below their respective five-year output averages.

The main summer crop across Europe each season is corn, and the EC expects this year’s harvest to be a tad under 69mmt, 10.8 per cent or 6.7mmt higher than the 2023 campaign. This continues the recovery from the disastrous 2022 harvest of only 53.1mmt and is now 3.6 per cent or 2.4mmt above the five-year average. The projected planted area of 9.2 million hectares is 9.1 per cent higher year-on-year, but only 3.5 per cent higher than 2022.

Rapeseed is the EU’s biggest oilseed crop each season, and the 2024/25 forecast has production 1.8 per cent lower at 19.5mmt but still 9.5 per cent higher than the five-year average of 17.8mmt. The planted area is 3.6 per cent lower at just under 6mmt compared to 6.2mmt in 2023/24.

The only other oilseed crop of significance grown in Europe each year is sunflower seed, with 2024/25 output expected to be 10.7mmt, 4.9 per cent higher than the previous season’s crop of 10.2mmt and 7.8 per cent above the five-year average of 9.9mmt. The planted area of 4.8mmt is basically unchanged compared to 2023/24.

The soggy spring conditions have red flags being raised on a number of fronts across the continent. The wet areas desperately need a reprieve to dry the ground, relieve winter crop stress, and get the spring planting program underway. The yield concerns appear to have halted the long downward price trend, with the EC’s production forecasts under serious threat if more favourable weather conditions fail to materialise in the coming weeks.

Call your local Grain Brokers Australia representative on 1300 946 544 to discuss your grain marketing needs.

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