Europe: Almost half of EU territory at risk of drought

Almost half (47%) of the EU territory is at risk of drought according to a recent report by the European Drought Observatory (EDO). In addition, due to the lack of rainfall, almost a fifth (17%) of the area is already in an alarming state, affecting vegetation and crop yields. Many crops have been severely damaged or reduced.

Barley had mixed results all over Europe. While winter barley took profit from the soil moisture during winter, spring barley suffered much more from the lack of precipitation in spring and summer. Parts of France and Germany showed mostly acceptable qualities but partly below average yields. The Mediterranean region was much worse off. Also Eastern and Central Europe with countries like Hungary, Slovakia and Romania showed disappointing results. Only northern Europe with Scandinavia, parts of UK and Ireland could profit from mainly good conditions.

Because of the later crop, corn is hit much harder by the drought than other grains. “The outlook for the 2022 crop grain maize harvests across Europe has deteriorated drastically,” Strategie Grains said in its monthly cereal report. The agro-economic research and analysis bureau slashed in its monthly forecast the European Union’s corn harvest by 10 million tons, dropping it to a 15-year a low of 55.4 million tonnes”.

The regions most affected by the negative precipitation anomalies in the three months ending on the 10th of August 2022 are central and southern Portugal; Spain; southern France; central Italy; Switzerland; southern Germany; a wide area across Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova; and large areas in the western Balkans.

The rest of Europe, already affected by drought, maintains stable severely dry conditions. Local recovery is observed in southern Czech Republic, northern Austria, and limited areas of central France. Regions already affected by drought in spring 2022 (e.g., northern Italy, south-eastern France, some areas in Hungary and Romania), are the ones with the most worsening conditions

“The severe drought that has affected many regions of Europe since the beginning of the year has continued to spread and worsen since the beginning of August," says the EDO-report. Recent rainfall in mid-August may help alleviating the drought conditions. However, in some areas the observed severe-to-extreme thunderstorms may have limited the beneficial effects. Additional challenges, damages and losses were reported due to these extreme events.

The extremely tense situation on the grain markets is aggravated by the situation in Ukraine, where part of the enormous export surpluses of this country cannot be realized due to hostilities in the Black Sea. Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war in February because its Black Sea ports – a key route for shipments – were closed off, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East. However, Ukraine’s grain, oilseed, vegetable oil exports rose by nearly 25% in July to 2.66 million tons versus June, due to higher wheat and barley shipments.

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