August 22, 2018 / 9:11 AM / 2 months ago

German farm lobby says grains harvest ravaged by drought

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany’s 2018 grains harvest is likely to fall by about 22 percent this year after crops suffered from a heatwave and drought, the German farmers association DBV said on Wednesday.

The association is calling for around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in special aid to help farmers after huge crop losses due to the highest summer temperatures since 1881 and prolonged dryness.

That helped push EU wheat prices to five-year highs in August on concern about supplies.

The association said it expects this year’s German grains harvest to total 35.6 million tonnes.

The harvest of winter wheat will be about 18.6 million tonnes, down 22.8 percent from 2017, the DBV said in its final harvest report.

German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner was scheduled to comment on the group’s request for aid later on Wednesday.

The latest harvest estimate compares to the DBV’s previous forecast on Aug. 1 of about 36 million tonnes of grains including 18 million tonnes of winter wheat.

The farming cooperatives association DRB, a separate organization, had on Aug. 8 forecast a grain crop of 36.3 million tonnes and a winter wheat crop of 19.2 million tonnes.

FILE PHOTO: Left over wheat is seen after harvest on a field in Zeitz, 120km south-west of Berlin, Germany, August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

For a graphic on European drought, click tmsnrt.rs/2M4kIvA

Germany, traditionally the EU’s largest grain producer after France and a major cereals exporter, is one of several north European countries that have suffered serious harvest damage this summer.

“The harvest has turned out even worse than had been initially expected,” DBV President Joachim Rukwied said in the report. “The latest picture of damage, not only by grains and oilseeds but also other feed crops, confirms our earlier fears.”

He said it was now essential that the German federal and regional governments approve emergency aid for farmers.

Dairy farmers were suffering particularly from reduced crops of feed grains, straw and hay, Rukwied said. Dairy farmers were being forced to reduce their herds because of high feed costs, sending more cattle to slaughter.

This in turn meant prices for slaughter cattle have fallen by about 11 percent in the past four weeks.

The farming association also forecast Germany’s 2018 winter rapeseed crop will fall to 3.3 million tonnes from 3.7 million tonnes in 2017.

The high springtime temperatures meant rapeseed became ripe too early, the association said.

The winter barley crop, used mostly for animal feed, will fall 18 percent to 7.4 million tonnes, it said.

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Reporting by Michael Hogan and Hans-Edzard Busemann; Editing by Susan Fenton

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