June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Grain production in Spain’s Castile and Leon region, the country’s biggest wheat growing area, is forecast to fall 40 percent after adverse growing conditions and disease pressure, young farmers association Asaja said.
Farmers in Castile and Leon may harvest 4.5 million metric tons of grain, excluding corn, down from 7.45 million tons in 2013, Asaja wrote in an online report today. Wheat production is forecast to fall to 2.3 million tons from 3.44 million tons.
Spain is the European Union’s largest grain importer, buying mainly wheat and corn. The country’s wheat-import needs are largely determined by the size of its own crop, Jack Watts, an analyst at the U.K.’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, wrote in a report yesterday.
“This major drop in production is due to several factors,” Asaja wrote. “The contribution from the countryside to the gross domestic production of Castile and Leon will be much smaller than in previous years.”
Barley production is forecast to fall to 1.88 million tons from last year’s 3.5 million tons, while farmers may harvest 128,030 tons of oats from 187,040 tons in 2013, and 139,949 tons of rye from 271,190 tons.
Asaja’s forecast compares with a government outlook for Castile and Leon wheat production of 2.84 million tons and a barley crop of 2.64 million tons, based on the situation at the end of March.
A very rainy winter, while good for recharging moisture reserves and ensuring irrigation water, caused ponding and poor germination, according to Asaja. That was followed by “a near absence” of rain in April and May, causing early drying up of cereals. Farmers also faced “intense proliferation” of fungal disease, mainly rust and septoria, Asaja said.
Temperatures in Spain averaged 17.3 degrees Celsius (63.1 degrees Fahrenheit) in May, 1.4 degrees higher than normal, while rainfall of 33 millimeters (1.3 inches) was about half the usual amount, according to the country’s weather office. In central and southwest Spain, temperatures were 4 to 5 degrees Celsius higher than normal in the May 1-18 period.
Current high temperatures could cause a reduction in the production outlook, according to Asaja. Harvesting machinery is in the field in the region’s south, compared with a usual harvest start of toward the end of June, the group wrote.
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