EU cereal harvest fares slightly better than expected, say groups

Europe’s cereal harvest for the year has fared marginally better than expected, though with huge variance between crops, leading agri-food groups have said.

The farmer representative group Copa-Cogeca’s latest EU-27 cereals estimates for 2012-13 and 2013-14 show that, despite bad weather conditions, many crops performed better than expected. Nonetheless, with food demand on the rise, the group says that urgent measures are needed under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2014 to enable the EU to make full use of its production potential, according to Copa-Cogeca’s cereals and oilseeds working party chairman, Max Shulman.

“Our latest cereal harvest estimates show production was quite stable this year, reaching 284mt whilst EU-27 oilseeds production totalled 27.99mt, a slight drop of 3.2% on last year’s levels,” Mr Shulman said.

“But producers were hit by particularly bad weather conditions this year, ranging from drought in southern countries to flooding and frost kill in central and northern member states.

“These bad weather conditions are also affecting plantings for the new season. In addition, producers are being squeezed by high production costs, reducing their margins substantially. With food demand and market volatility on the rise, it’s crucial to make the most of the EU’s production potential.”

Meanwhile, with figures very close to Copa-Cogeca’s projections, the European grain industry body Coceral has cut its grain and oil seed estimates for 2012-13 by 16%, with production lower than expected in September after Italy’s crop fell on drought and a heatwave, according to Coceral.

The lobby group estimates grain crop production in 32 European countries at 283.5mt, which is around 4.8% lower than 2011-12. Its higher earlier projections were revised on foot of sustained bad weather.

Coceral said the reduction in its estimates is due to falls in wheat and maize dragging down any upturn in better barley crops across the member states studied.

Coceral expects the corn crop for the 27 nations in the EU is estimated to fall to 54.7m metric tonnes from 64.8m tonnes last year. The outlook was cut from 56m tonnes previously.

Italy was the EU’s third-largest corn grower last year behind France and Romania, based on data from the International Grains Council. The country was also the EU’s third-largest importer of the grain.

Its corn imports fell to 1.43m tonnes in the first nine months of 2012 from 1.97m tonnes in the year-earlier period, industry group Associazione Nazionale Cerealisti stated.

The farmer group Copa-Cogeca, of which the IFA is a member, wants the European Commission to include its concerns over these projections in any reforms of the CAP.

Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen stressed: “The new CAP must maintain EU production capacity. The commission’s new measures to further green the CAP under reform are estimated to reduce production by up to 3%, without having any clear environmental benefits, and this must be revised.

“Measures to green the CAP must ensure green growth: Measures which benefit the environment at the same time as maintaining production capacity, efficiency, and employment.

“Latest EU-27 farm income estimates also show incomes are fragile, mainly as a result of high product costs (energy, seeds, fertilisers), and further costly regulations and obligations should not be imposed.

“In addition, farmers need a comprehensive technological tool box to mitigate attacks against pesticides and other factors,” Mr Pesonen said.


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