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EU Crop Yields Face Uncertain Future After Difficult Start to Summer

Hopes for a bumper harvest in Europe are fading as a challenging start to summer threatens to drag down crop yields, according to the latest report from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). While overall forecasts remain close to the five-year average, a combination of waterlogged fields, drought conditions in other areas, and early heatwaves are raising concerns.

The JRC MARS Bulletin, a key monitoring tool for agricultural production, highlights particular concern for durum wheat, the hard variety used to make pasta. "Durum wheat was most strongly reduced, mainly due to downward revisions for France and Italy," the report states, suggesting potential for significant supply issues.

While soft wheat, used for bread and other baked goods, is faring slightly better, its forecast has also been downgraded. The report notes that the EU-wide soft wheat yield is now projected at the five-year average, a level described as "mediocre." Italy, Romania, and the Netherlands have seen the most significant downward revisions for soft wheat yields.

The report paints a picture of stark contrasts across the continent. While northern and eastern Europe have enjoyed favorable growing conditions with ample rainfall and warm temperatures, other regions are struggling. Waterlogged soils in the Benelux countries, western Germany, north-eastern France, and northern Italy have delayed summer crop sowing by up to two months. Conversely, parts of Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia are facing significant water deficits, with a similar situation impacting eastern Spain.

Adding to the worries, heatwaves have arrived early in southern Europe, further stressing crops already grappling with drought. “In Spain, where overall yield expectations are positive, heatwaves in June worsened the condition of winter crops in some parts in the east that had already been affected by water stress,” the report warns.

While the final impact on harvests won't be known for several months, the JRC MARS Bulletin emphasizes that the coming weeks are critical. "Final yields will strongly depend on temperatures during summer and farmers adaptation strategy," the report concludes.