Spain’s Grain Crop to Lag Expectations After Rain Flooded Fields

Spain’s winter-grain crop will be “significantly” lower than projected after rains flooded fields in March, young farmers’ organization Asaja said, citing initial results of wheat and barley harvesting.

The crop will come to 13.9 million metric tons, Asaja wrote in an online report today. Spain’s Agriculture Ministry has forecast farmers will gather 15 million tons of winter grains. The nation is Europe’s largest grain importer.

Spain had its wettest March on record, with an average 157 millimeters (6.2 inches) of rain, compared with 46 millimeters normally. The country imported 13.1 million tons of grain in 2012, when drought hurt the local harvest, trade data show.

“Early production data coming from Extremadura and Andalusia as well as the province of Cadiz are below expectations,” Asaja wrote. “However, for the north of Spain the forecasts are more optimistic.”

The country’s soft-wheat crop is forecast at 5 million tons, durum-wheat output is estimated at 800,000 tons and the barley harvest may reach 6.8 million tons, Asaja said. That compares with a government outlook for 5.6 million tons of soft wheat, 970,400 tons of durum and 7.02 million tons of barley.

Spain consumes about 28 million to 30 million tons of grain a year, of which two-thirds is produced domestically, according to Asaja.

Reduced Inventories

“We have to import the remaining third and this year we’re starting off the campaign with historically low stocks,” the group wrote. “Regarding prices, Asaja’s grain unit doesn’t see reasons for the decline foreseen by some pessimists.”

Andalusia accounted for 69 percent of Spain’s durum wheat harvest last year, while the region and Extremadura produced 6.4 percent of the country’s soft wheat and 3.3 percent of barley, government data show.

March rains in Andalusia and Extremadura caused a proliferation of disease and weeds, while flooding prevented farmers from entering fields to apply fungicides and fertilizer, according to Asaja. That is expected to result in a short harvest well below initial expectations, it said.

The condition of crops in Castile and Leon as well as Navarre is better, though a lack of warmth and disease spread had lowered producers’ outlook.

“The rainy spring and additionally the absence of heat has caused a harvesting delay of about one month, which is causing an invasion of weeds,” Asaja wrote.

Castile and Leon is Spain’s biggest grain-growing region, harvesting 49 percent of the country’s soft-wheat crop last year and 37 percent of its barley.

Aragon’s winter-grain harvest is predicted to be average, while crops are in good condition in Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia and Valencia, the group said.

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