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Commission publishes crop yield forecast: drought hits again but European cereal production remains stable

Brussels, 14 July 2006

Detailed scientific analysis by the European Commission, through its advanced crop yield forecasting system, shows that, despite the drought-affected areas around the Mediterranean, this year’s total EU cereal harvest remains in line with the average of the last five years (-0.5%). Once again, a drought is keeping crop yields at low levels in southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece). The forecast published today by the Commission provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the European Union, comparing these with last year’s production and the average harvests over the last five years. It also identifies the areas most affected by drought this year and compares the situation with past extreme drought events.

EU crop yield levels are suffering this year from similar conditions to 2005, though to a lesser extent. Dry conditions and hot temperatures have again had an impact on water resources in the affected areas. If the drought continues, the affected area could get bigger and crop yield impact worsen. Any resulting impact on irrigation would affect grain maize in addition to sugar beet and potatoes.

Comparing with the 2001-2005 averages, for soft wheat, winter barley and maize the Commission forecasts a potential yield increase respectively of 4.3%, 2.3% and 3.0%. For durum wheat the forecast is for a potential yield decrease of -2.3%. For spring barley a potential decrease of -4.4%. is forecast

The geographic area affected by the current drought is less extended than that of the extreme droughts in 2005 and in 2003. For instance, the area affected by the drought impact on wheat production makes up 14% of the total EU area in 2006, compared with 17% in 2005 and 23% in 2003. However, some of the affected regions - southern France (Languedoc Roussillon, Provence-Cote d’Azur), Catalonia in Spain, Sardinia, and central and north-western regions in Italy - show a worsening situation in terms of the water reserves accumulated since spring

On a positive note, the rain deficit in the most affected areas in 2006 started mainly in spring, whereas in 2005 it started well before (as far back as autumn 2004). In the northernmost regions of the concerned areas the hot temperatures arrived later, making the impact on soil moisture less dramatic than in 2005.

A number of the areas affected by drought in 2006 are among those most affected in 2005. This causes concern for the status of water reserves. Furthermore, an analysis of extreme drought events over the last 30 years shows increasing frequency in drought conditions in the last 15 years in some of the affected areas: i.e. south-eastern Spain, north-western France and central Italy.

Detailed forecasts by crop and country are published in MEMO/06/284.

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