Very variable grain harvest in Europe

24-07-2020 | |
The grain harvest is in full swing in Europe. Photo: Peter Roek
The grain harvest is in full swing in Europe. Photo: Peter Roek

The grain harvest is in full swing in Europe. In some Member States, growers may be satisfied with the amount of grain entering the combines. However, the yields are disappointing in other regions.

France is the largest grain producer in the EU. The wheat harvest is in full swing there. According to agricultural agency FranceAgriMer, 47% had been harvested early this week, up from 26% a year earlier. The French wheat harvest is one of the smallest in years.

7.1 tons of common wheat per hectare

Agricultural agency Agreste expects the average hectare yield to remain at 7.1 tons of soft wheat per hectare, compared to 7.9 tons last year. In some regions, yields are 40 to 50% below last year’s. This brings French soft wheat production to 31.1 million tons. That is 21% less than last season and the second lowest yield in the last 16 years.

Durum wheat can yield 1.33 million tons, almost 15% lower on an annual basis. Barley shows the same picture with 6.1 tons per hectare this year compared to 7.7 tons last year. The harvest for barley is estimated at 12.3 million tons, more than 10% lower than in 2019.

German barley production 9% lower than 5-year average

German growers are also looking at a small barley harvest. The German farmers’ union DBV expects barley production to be 9% lower than the 5-year average, while the acreage has shrunk only 2.3%. DBV assumes 8.9 million tons of winter barley compared to 9.8 million tons last year (-9%). The hectare yields are 7% below last year’s, while the acreage has shrunk 2.3%. DBV calls the hectare yields for barley very heterogeneous.

Futures market
Overview of futures prices for: corn, wheat and soybean

Second smallest German wheat crop in 10 years

The prospects for the German wheat harvest are also not great. The Deutsche Raiffeisenverband (DRV) assumes 22.5 million tons of German wheat. Last year 23 million tons of wheat were harvested. If the DRV forecast is realised, it means the second smallest German wheat harvest in 10 years. Harvest 2018 stuck at 20 million tons due to drought. This year’s meagre harvest is due to drought in the spring and frosts in May.

Polish wheat harvest estimated at nearly 11 million tons

Arable farmers in Poland, on the other hand, will look satisfied in their combines. The European Commission estimates the Polish wheat harvest at nearly 11 million tons. That is the fifth largest wheat harvest ever for Poland with an almost unchanged area. The barley harvest in Poland is 3.6 million tons higher than in 2019 (3.4 million tons) and 2018 (3 million tons). Poland already received a lot of rain in May, which benefited the grain.

UK grain statistics

As of this year, the Commission has ceased to keep grain statistics on the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit. The British agricultural agency AHDB states that the British have shrunk the wheat area by 25%, in favour of a 50% growth in summer barley, due to the soaking wet autumn in 2019. The AHDB publishes the first harvest forecast in September.

Jan Engwerda Arable farming reporter
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