Drought-hit French grain maize crop to fall to 10 mln T - growers

A French farmer harvests a maize field in Thun-L'Eveque, France, September 29, 2022. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

PARIS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - This year's drought-affected grain maize crop in France will produce about 10 million tonnes, growers group AGPM said on Wednesday, joining other observers in predicting the worst harvest in decades.

The crop forecast was based on an estimated yield of 7.9 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), down from a 5-year average of 9.7 t/ha, and a harvested area of 1.27 million hectares, the AGPM said.

This year's yield would be the lowest since 2003 and production the smallest in over 30 years, it said in a harvest update.

Last month, the farm ministry had forecast French grain maize production at 11.33 million tonnes, which it said was the lowest level since 1990.

Maize is among crops to have suffered most from France's worst drought on record, which was accompanied by several heatwaves.

The drought hurt particularly non-irrigated maize, for which the average yield was expected at around 6.6 t/ha compared with 10 t/ha anticipated for irrigated crops, the AGPM said.

About a third of French grain maize crops is irrigated, it added.

The harvest is taking place earlier than usual after the hot summer accelerated plant growth and the AGPM said farmers will have cut about two-thirds of the crop by the end of this week.

Low moisture in the crop will reduce post-harvest drying costs, one positive factor for growers faced with modest yields and a rise in production costs of about 20% this year, the AGPM said.

Rising fertiliser prices have contributed to higher production costs and farmers in some countries have switched from maize to crops like sunflower seed that are less intensive in nutrients.

But AGPM President Daniel Peyraube told reporters it was too early to anticipate what the fertiliser market would be like next spring when maize is planted, and that there was limited scope for switching as maize is often tied to local industries like livestock feed.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz, additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by David Evans and Marguerita Choy

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