Drought lingers as threat to Romania's 2013 crops

The drought which has driven Romania's corn harvest down 40% is presenting risks to 2013 harvests too, hampering farmers making autumn sowings, and fuelling a drop of nearly one-half in rapeseed plantings.

Rains last month had fostered a "fair improvement" in soil moisture levels in Romania, after a drought which has cut the corn crop in the country, typically one of the world's top-10 producers, well below last year's 10.5m tonnes, the US Department of Agriculture bureau in Bucharest said.

The bureau estimated this year's Romanian corn harvest at 6.1m tonnes, 200,000 tonnes below the official USDA forecast, and the International Grains Council's 6.5m-tonne figure.

However, the rainfall had come far from neutralising the impact of the drought, which also left Danube river levels "critically low" for much of the summer, and has prompted a drop of some 25% in sunflower output.

'Very difficult and costly'

"The long-awaited precipitation was insufficient to replace depleted soil moisture levels," the bureau said, noting that levels were "notably under" those a year ago.

The residual dryness means that "farmers in many regions are finding it very difficult and costly to sow winter crops - rapeseed, wheat and barley" during the autumn seeding windows for crops to be harvested in 2013.

Growers were undertaking measures such as minimum tillage, which in limiting topsoil disturbance cuts moisture loss, to boost hopes of viable crops.

They were also turning to spring sowings in the hope of improved soil conditions by then, and of avoiding the frost risk which effected autumn-sown crops last winter.

Slump in exports

Indeed, rapeseed sowings are seen tumbling by 45%, after "harsh" winter conditions left growers reseeding nearly three-quarters of the oilseed planted last autumn.

"Given the diminished supply, exports are unlikely to exceed 15% of last year's volume of 600,000 tonnes," and indeed leave domestic crushers relying increasingly on imports.

In wheat, of which Romania is a notable exporter, sowings are expected to remain in line with last year's, at 1.9m hectares, with recent rains improving prospects for germination.

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