Grains Wilt in Dry Europe as England Posts Its Hottest April in 352 Years

Dry weather in France and Germany and England’s hottest April in at least 352 years are threatening crops across the European Union, producer of a fifth of the world’s wheat.

About 20 percent of average rain fell in the U.K. in April after a dry March, further reducing soil moisture, the Home- Grown Cereals Authority, an industry group, said in an e-mailed report. European wheat and rapeseed crops are “in jeopardy” after an “incredibly dry” April, according to agricultural weather forecaster Martell Crop Projections.

Dry, warm weather in Europe may reduce global wheat stockpiles already expected to fall 7.6 percent in the year that ends on May 31, the biggest decline since 2007. Food prices reached a record in February, driving 44 million people into poverty, and wheat consumption may rise to an all-time high this year. The world “cannot afford” for Europe’s crop to be diminished, Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, said last month.

“The world needs a bumper crop in all grains from the U.S. and from Europe and from Canada or we are in trouble,” Dennis Gartman, an economist and author of The Gartman Letter, said today by e-mail. “The winter wheat crop here is in trouble, and the spring wheat crop in the Dakotas and the Canadian prairies may be very badly delayed and therefore in jeopardy.”

Inciting Riots

Feed-wheat futures traded in London almost doubled in the past year and milling-wheat futures gained 91 percent in Paris trading. Prices gained partly after the worst Russian drought in a half-century cut production, causing the government to ban exports of grains. Chicago futures, the world benchmark, rose 55 percent in the past year. Rising prices were partly blamed for inciting riots in north Africa and the Middle East that led to the ouster of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

The average temperature in the area covered by the Central England Temperature gauge, an area bound by London, Bristol and Manchester, was 11.8 degrees Celsius (53.24 degrees Fahrenheit) in April, the warmest since record-keeping started in 1659, according to the Met Office.

March was the driest since 1961 in England and Wales, the National Farmers’ Union said in a report today. April’s water reserves were the lowest since 1996 as dry, warm weather persists, the NFU said.

“Some members, particularly in the east of the U.K., have been reporting slow and patchy emergence of spring crops and some signs of water stress developing for winter-sown oilseed rape and some winter cereal crops,” the NFU said on its website.

‘Tipping Point’

Wheat and rapeseed in France, Germany and the U.K., the largest wheat producers in the EU, are ready to deteriorate rapidly without rain, Gail Martell, the head of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin-based Martell Crop Projections, said in an e-mailed report two days ago.

The grains are at an “important tipping point” because stored soil moisture from the winter has been used up, Martell said. The meteorologist said 65 percent of European wheat and 75 percent to 80 percent of rapeseed are in jeopardy.

“Earlier-maturing winter crops are likely to be worst affected without rain, so at the moment that means barley and rapeseed,” Dave Norris, an independent feed broker in Harrogate, England, said today by e-mail. “Spring-planted crops haven’t got off to a good start either, with very little moisture since they got planted, which again means barley and rapeseed.”

Global Stockpiles

Wheat is the EU’s second-largest agricultural export after wine, with an average value of 3.45 billion euros ($5.1 billion) a year from 2008 to 2010, according to the bloc. The 27-nation grouping will produce 136.08 million metric tons of wheat in the year that ends on May 31, USDA data show. Global output will total 647.18 million tons, according to the USDA.

Global wheat stockpiles are expected to fall to 182.8 million tons in the year through May 31, down from 197.9 million a year earlier, USDA data show. World consumption of wheat will total a record 660.8 million tons this year, up 1.6 percent from a year ago, the USDA said.

Drought in the U.S. southern Great Plains also may curb production, boosting prices further and increasing costs for bread and cereal makers. Wheat yields may fall in north-central Kansas and southern Nebraska from a year ago, according to data from the Wheat Quality Council’s annual crop tour.

Yields may average 40 bushels an acre, based on observations from 267 fields collected on the first day of the tour. In 2010, the estimated yield in the area surveyed on the first day was 40.7 bushels, based on 213 observations, council data show. The tour traveled from Manhattan to Colby, Kansas.

Livestock Costs

Wet weather in northern Plains and Midwest states may curb production of corn, USDA data show. Farmers who grow the grain, the biggest ingredient in animal rations, may instead plant soybeans, driving up the price of the grain and increasing costs for companies that feed livestock.

About 13 percent of the U.S. corn crop, the world’s biggest, was planted as of May 1, the USDA said this week. That compared with 9 percent a week earlier and 66 percent a year earlier. The average was 40 percent at this time of year from 2006 to 2010. Spring wheat was 10 percent planted, down from the five-year average of 43 percent, USDA data show.

‘Decent’ Rains

The United Nations’ food-price index, which reached a record 236.76 points in February, may climb to 240 points by the year’s end from 229.84 in March, driven by demand for meat, oilseeds and grains, Resilience AG fund manager William Adams said last week.

“If rain doesn’t arrive in 10 to 14 days, there will be start to be an impact on yields if there has not been already,” said David Eudall, an analyst at the HGCA, which is a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

“If a decent amount of rain does arrive in the coming days and weeks, the impact could be smaller. However, the forecasts are not predicting this in many areas at the moment.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony C. Dreibus in London at tdreibus@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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