EU Predicts Grain-Yield Recovery After Rain, Lack of Winterkill

European Union yields for crops from grains to potatoes are forecast to climb after rain and snow filled soil-water reserves and plants survived winter weather, the bloc’s agricultural forecasting unit said.

Wheat yields in the EU, good for about 20 percent of the world’s harvest, may rise 4.4 percent to 5.4 metric tons per hectare (2.47 acres) this year from 5.17 tons in 2012, the Monitoring Agricultural Resources unit wrote in a report today.

Freezing temperatures in February last year killed some winter crops in France, Germany and Poland, while drought hurt yields in southern EU countries from Spain to Romania. That cut output of everything from wheat and corn to olive oil and wine.

“Fair wintering conditions suggest good yield potentials,” MARS wrote. “No frost-kill damage was recorded during the period of review, thanks to light frost events and sufficient snow cover.”

Soft-wheat yields in the EU are seen advancing 4.5 percent to 5.65 tons per hectare from last year’s 5.41 tons, lifted by increased productivity in Spain, Hungary, the U.K. and Germany. In France, the biggest EU wheat grower, yields may slip less than 1 percent to 7.31 tons per hectare, according to MARS.

Yields for durum wheat, the hard variety used to make pasta and couscous, are predicted to rise to 3.19 tons per hectare from 3.15 tons, boosted by a doubling of yields in Spain.

Spain Barley

EU barley yields may climb 2.3 percent to 4.46 tons per hectare, again lifted by Spain. Corn yields are predicted to jump 17 percent to 6.96 tons per hectare, led by gains in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Farmers may harvest 3.1 tons of rapeseed per hectare, little changed from a year ago, while yields for sunflower seed may jump 13 percent to 1.8 tons per hectare, according to MARS.

Potato yields in the bloc may gain 6.1 percent to 31.5 tons per hectare on improved crops in the Black Sea region and sugar-beet productivity may increase 1.4 percent to 71.2 tons per hectare, the report showed.

A cold spell after March 8 slowed crop development for most of central, western and northern Europe, MARS reported. Computer models of crops suggest no winter damage, it said.

Winter-grain growth in northern France has been delayed by rainfall and low temperatures, with satellite data indicating a delay of two weeks in crop development, MARS said. That is directly linked to late sowing last year due to autumn rainfall, it said.

“Expectations are for average yields for all winter crops, as no major meteorological constraints have been experienced during winter,” MARS wrote. “Water availability in the soil is enough to guarantee adequate crop growth in the first half of spring.”

Germany Delayed

In Germany, field work was interrupted or delayed by a cold snap this month, while above-average rainfall should assure “good” water supply for winter grains, according to Mars. Cold weather also delayed growth in Poland, where yields will be “slightly” above the five-year average, MARS wrote.

In the U.K., a “remarkably wet” December was followed by drier weather at the end of February and the beginning of March, allowing spring-grain planting and application of fertilizer or pesticides, according to the EU unit.

In Spain, satellite data shows crop development is ahead of the seasonal average after humid conditions favored growth of winter cereals, MARS said. Reservoirs are back to year-ago levels after “quite a demanding summer” in 2012, it said. The country had its second-driest summer in 60 years.

Spain Outlook

“Expectations for crop growth are positive at this stage of the season, but they will have to be confirmed during April, when meteorological conditions become crucial for determining yield potentials of winter cereals,” the unit said.

Romania and Hungary benefited from a snow cover that protected winter crops from freezing damage and boosted soil-water reserves, the report showed.

In Black Sea region countries outside the EU, abundant rain and a mild winter created favorable conditions in Turkey for both winter and spring crops, according to MARS.

Most of Ukraine had above-normal temperatures and sufficient water, except for the southeast, where a water shortage hampered germination, the EU unit said. In Russia, some winterkill damage occurred in the Southern District, while the general crop status in main winter-wheat areas is above average, MARS said.

For Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, wheat yields are predicted to be “significantly higher” than the five-year average on “rather wet” and mild winter conditions, according to the EU unit. Some areas in the south of Tunisia and east of Algeria are affected by drought, MARS said.

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