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EU wheat harvest receives second downgrade in two days


The European Union wheat harvest suffered its second downgrade in two days, in a briefing which highlighted a rise in durum values to their highest since at least 2015.


The European Commission slashed by a further 3.19m tonnes, to 113.46m tonnes, its forecast for the bloc’s soft wheat harvest this year - taking it below the drought-hit 2018 crop.


Including durum, the type of wheat used to make pasta and semolina, the harvest figure (which excludes the UK) was pegged at 120.57m tonnes – a fall of nearly 18m tonnes year on year.


The downgrade also took the commission’s estimate below even that of the International Grains Council, which on Thursday lowered its estimate by 3.89m tonnes to 121.76m tonnes.


‘Huge decrease’

Indeed, the commission acknowledged that its forecast was below that of other major commentators, with Strategie Grains to weeks ago pegging the EU-27 crop at 125.5m tonnes including durum, and industry group Coceral last week issuing a 126.5m-tonne figure.


However, it included estimates of an 8.4% decline to 19.9m tonnes in German output, of a drop of 16.7% to 29.5m tonnes in French production, and of a slump of 23.0% to 5.8m tonnes in Romania’s harvest.


The figures reflect harvest results which showed bigger damage than many commentators had expected from extremes of wet and dry weather.


Production had suffered a “huge decrease” thanks to the impact of the rains in hampering autumn sowings in western Europe, and dryness afflicting many parts of the region thereafter.


Wheat vs corn

One knock-on effect of the weaker supplies was a cut of 1.0m tonnes to 25.27m tonnes in the forecast for the EU’s all-wheat exports in 2020-21 – down from 38.05m tonnes last season.


The commission also downgraded by 2.0m tonnes, to 39.50m tonnes, its forecast for EU use of wheat in animal feed this season – to be replaced by the likes of barley and of corn.


With a lower EU corn harvest forecast too, the forecast for EU maize imports this season was raised by 1.91m tonnes, to 18.40m tonnes.


Officials also highlighted a surge in durum prices which had in La Rochelle, France topped $290 per tonne, up some $60 per tonne year on year, and the highest since at least 2015. Bologna, Italy had witnessed even greater gains, withg prices topping $300 per tonne last month.


Rapeseed forecast

For rapeseed, by contrast, the commission nudged higher its forecast for EU production this year, by 174,000 tonnes to 15.57m tonnes – taking it a little further ahead of last years multi-year low output of 15.36m tonnes.


The 2020 upgrade reflected a slight increase to the area figure.


With the estimate for the EU rapeseed crush cut by nearly 800,000 tonnes to a multi-year low of 19.16m tonnes - as Covid-19 factors cut demand for biodiesel, a big demand source for rapeseed oil – the forecast for the bloc’s imports this season was cut by nearly 1.0m tonnes to 4.51m tonnes.


Last season, thanks to the poor harvest, EU rapeseed imports reached a record 6.21m tonnes, up from the average of 4.21m tonnes over the previous three seasons.

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