maize crop

Prolonged heatwaves across major growing areas have decimated European maize crops this summer, prompting fears of “significantly” lower yields and higher food and feed prices.

Cropland areas in northern Italy, France, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary have suffered temperatures regularly exceeding 35C and reaching 40C in some regions, with disastrous consequences for maize, which is in flowering stage.

The European Commission’s Monitoring Agricultural Resources (MARS) unit warns EU maize yields could fall by 16.9% year on year in 2015.

AHDB market intelligence senior analyst Dr Amandeep Kaur Purewal says the situation in France - the EU’s top maize producer - has deteriorated very quickly”, with 59% of the French crop in good or very good condition in the week ending 27 July, compared with 81% just four weeks earlier.

Prices for French maize rose 9.9% month on month in July to £131.7 per tonne - 2.2% higher year on year [Mintec].

In the UK, the bulk of maize is used for animal feed. Maize is also used in distilling, and distillers might switch to wheat if the EU price gets too high. Some maize is used in food processing, but quantities are small in comparison to feed.

Purewal warns reduced maize yields will contribute to a generally “tighter feed grain situation” in 2015 than last year, with potential consequences for meat prices. However, an improved outlook for the US should stop prices from soaring too high. “Fairly good weather is forecast for the US corn belt, which is weighing down on prices there and starting to influence the EU.”

According to the International Grains Council (IGC), Chinese maize production is also set to increase, and IGC has revised its estimate for global maize output to 966 million tonnes.