The EU has faced a mixed harvest, which has been dominated by weather.
Nevertheless, production of major grains has risen, thanks to a bigger area and greater yields. Wheat output is set to reach almost 150m tonnes, up 30m tonnes on the year. The EU will need to price wheat exports competitively and also carry over a larger stock into the following season. Quality, therefore, will be the key to securing export sales.
In France, latest estimates from the national office suggest wheat production (excluding durum) could reach 37.4m tonnes, up 22%. It suggests French wheat exports beyond the EU are essential and could amount to 8m tonnes, almost half EU’s export requirement.
French wheat quality is reportedly good with specific weights averaging 77.8kg/hl (75.1 in 2007). Protein, however, is seen lower at 11.5% (12.3% in 2007).
In Germany, wheat production is expected to rise by 17.5% to almost 25m tonnes. Spring drought in the north checked average yields, but estimates remain relatively high at 7.5t/ha, according to market analyst Strategie Grains. A rainy, stop-start harvest is likely to have affected quality.
In Spain, late spring rains boosted crops, and grain production is likely to be close to last year’s record 22.3m tonnes. This is significant as Spain is a major UK customer, currently expected to use 725,000t of UK wheat this season (Strategie Grains).
In Poland, usually the EU’s third largest grain producer, a severe drought in the north knocked yield potential. The Central Statistics Office puts production 8% down at 23.2m tonnes, which could almost double its wheat import needs to 0.9m tonnes.
Denmark also suffered a spring drought and barley yields are predicted to be 0.4t/ha lower than last year at 4.59t/ha. Prices are too high for export and nitrogen contents high, which may favour high quality exports from the UK.
Record plantings and good growing conditions means total grain production in Romania and Bulgaria could reach 25m tonnes, compared with 10.3m tonnes last year. However, as with neighbouring Ukraine, pest and disease problems means only 15% of the crop, rather than the usual 40-60%, will make milling specification.
In summary, the EU and its neighbours have produced huge wheat crops. But difficult weather in many areas means more feed wheat and a potential shortage of high protein wheat. For the UK, exports remain critical and will have to compete head-on with Black Sea feed wheat into Spain and possibly third countries.