EU Baltic Sea region wheat crops suffer from drought

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Dry summer weather is causing sudden damage to wheat crops in European Baltic Sea countries, putting a question mark over wheat export supplies, experts said on Friday.

Denmark and Sweden may even need imports.

“EU Baltic Sea countries are large exporters of high quality, high protein wheat and a very dry summer means the outlook for the crop is poor,” one German trader said. “Crop stress from dryness means the harvest is now uncertain.”

Germany’s 2018 wheat crop may fall 6.5 percent to 22.89 million tonnes after dryness stress.

Polish wheat also suffered from drought and recent rain was not enough to solve the problem, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

Poland’s wheat crop will fall 6.7 percent from 2017 to 10.9 million tonnes, Sabaranski forecasts.

“If the drought continues through June 2018, we will be forced to slash this forecast back to 10.5-10.7 million tonnes,” Sabaranski said.

In major exporter Lithuania, the harvest could fall to 3.1-3.2 million tonnes from 3.8 million last year after reduced sowings and dry weather, estimates Dainius Pilkauskas, Baltic states grain trading director at AB Linas Agro.

“It is difficult to predict the quality of grain which is seen just before harvesting starts,” Pilkauskas said. “Only after knowing the quality we could plan export destinations.”

“I do believe that Lithuania still will be a very strong competitor in the world market.”

Wheat in Sweden was hit by a lack of early summer rain after poor autumn weather cut the sowed area, said Mikael Jeppsson, grain department head at giant Swedish farm and trading cooperative Lantmannen.

Sweden’s wheat harvest is expected to fall by 15-20 percent from the five-year average of 2.46 million tonnes.

“Wheat is suffering from the heat although the picture in a large country like Sweden is mixed in different regions,” Jeppsson said. “Some areas have hardly had any rain since early May.”

“Sweden is traditionally a net exporter of wheat but it is likely that Sweden will be a net importer in the new season, with imports likely to be made from other EU countries.”

A sharp fall in Denmark’s wheat harvest is expected after crops suffered a very dry start to the summer, following a rainy autumn which cut wheat sowings, said Palle Jakobsen, director of Danish agricultural consultancy Agrocom.

Denmark’s wheat crop could fall to 2.9 to 3.0 million tonnes from 4.6 million tonnes last year, Jakobsen estimates.

“Denmark’s harvest is suffering from the dryness and if rain came it could stop further deterioration but probably not improve the picture,” Jakobsen said. “Denmark may have to import more wheat in the new season from the EU.”

“This will involve feed wheat, as the barley crop is also not looking good, and milling wheat. Denmark has been an importer of high quality milling wheat in past years.”

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Adrian Croft