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EU analysts trim spring barley hopes, after dryness returns to Spain


Europe’s spring barley farmers appear set to have missed out on a broad improvement in yields across cereal crops, according to official agri-meteorologists.


The European Commission’s Mars research bureau trimmed its yield forecast for this year’s European Union spring barley harvest by 0.06 tonnes per hectare to 4.14 tonnes per hectare, taking it below the five-year average result.


The reduction, which contrasted with upgraded yield expectations for many other crops, reflected weakened expectations for results in many countries, including France, now no longer seen pegged for a “higher-than-average” result, Germany and Poland.


‘Very dry and warm’

However, the harvest in Spain, the European Union’s largest spring barley producer, received a particular downgrade, of 0.23 tonnes per hectare to 2.70 tonnes per hectare – taking it 25% below last year’s result.


“Very dry and warm conditions in May, particularly in the south and centre of the Iberian Peninsula, have lowered yield expectations for winter crops and spring barley,” Mars said.


“After a rainy April, dry conditions returned to large parts” of the peninsula last month, with large parts of the key grain growing are of Castilla y Leon seeing a rainfall deficit of 40-60mm since the start of May.


Denmark and Sweden are now the only countries for which Mars forecast a yield this year above the typical range, with the bureau saying that rains over the past six weeks or so “allowed spring crops to recover from the rain deficit observed in April”.


In fact, most of Sweden “received 50% more rainfall than the average”.


Wheat upgrades

The reduced forecast for the EU spring barley result this year contrasted with upgrades by Mars for yield expectations for many other cereals, less dependent on Spain for production.


The soft wheat yield forecast was upgraded by 0.05 tonnes per hectare to 6.10 tonnes per hectare, taking it well above the average of 5.94 tonnes per hectare, and last year’s drought-reduced figure of 5.62 tonnes per hectare.


The German soft wheat crop received an upgrade of 0.16 tonnes per hectare to 7.63 tonnes per hectare - up nearly 1.0 tonne per hectare year on year – after “much needed rain arrived in May”, although Mars added that in some northern areas “crops continue to be under some moisture stress”.


Poland’s crop received an upgrade of 0.15 tonnes per hectare to 4.88 tonnes per hectare, up 20% year on year, as “beneficial rains helped to restore soil water levels… after the very dry April”.


Mars noted that “winter cereals, especially wheat, are in good condition”.


‘In good shape’

The bureau upgraded its forecast for this year’s EU corn yield by 0.13 to 8.05 tonnes per hectare, helped by an upgrade of 0.40 tonnes per hectare to 6.77 tonnes per hectare in the estimate for Romania, the bloc’s second largest grower.


“Summer crops are in good shape in the main producing regions” of the country, Mars said, noting that “abundant rainfall kept soil moisture content above average levels”.


And in rapeseed, the agency slightly raised its yield forecast to 3.14 tonnes per hectare, from 3.13 tonnes per hectare.


’Farmers are positive’


For winter barley, the yield forecast remained little changed, at 5.96 tonnes per hectare, with downgrades to crops in the likes of France, Romania and Spain offset by upgrades to expectations for Germany, Poland and Sweden.


The comments come as the winter barley is poised to begin in France, kicking off the cereals harvest in the EU’s top grains producing country.


“First harvests of winter barley will begin in France during this week in early regions,” said Paris-based Agritel.


“Farmers are positive about yields,” the group said, although adding that short-term weather conditions “will be crucial to add quality to quantity”.


Agency FranceAgriMer on Friday rated French soft wheat, winter barley and corn conditions at 80%, 74% and 82% respectively in "good" or "excellent" condition, unchanged week on week.


Only the spring barley rating was lowered, by one point to 87%.

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