Sweltering temperatures and sparse rain could hurt Europe's maize crop in the coming days, potentially curbing harvest prospects further after some countries saw a drop in planting this year, analysts and producers said.
A second heatwave in a month is gripping parts of western Europe, worsening drought and fuelling wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France.
The impact on maize (corn), mainly used to feed livestock, will depend on the duration of the hot, dry spell, but it could be severe on rain-reliant fields or areas where drought has brought irrigation restrictions.
"This is something to watch as maize crops are in the middle of pollination," Nathan Cordier of consultancy Agritel, said.
"We are heading for a drop in production potential in Europe."
In a widely followed world crop outlook on Tuesday, the US government trimmed its forecast for EU maize production, citing a reduced estimate for Italy.
The current hot weather risks prolonging a dire drought in Italy that led the authorities to declare an emergency along the river Po that nurtures a third of the country's farm production.
Farming lobby Coldiretti estimates maize production will fall by 30% compared to around 6 million tonnes last year.
In Spain, maize production could drop by 16% to 3.57 million tonnes after water scarcity led farmers to cut planting and preserve irrigation resources for fruit, according to Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias, an umbrella group of farming cooperatives.
"The problem this year in the maize crop in Spain is the lack of water, in other crops such as wheat or barley it has been the heat," Antonio Caton, head of herbaceous crops at the group, said.
In France, where irrigation is less widespread than in Spain, crop conditions could deteriorate after a good start to the growing season.
"It's been decent but we're now in the period when maize needs to receive a lot of water," Agritel's Cordier said.
French farmers cut back on maize planting this year due to rising fertiliser and energy costs.
The market is monitoring forecasts, which show heat could ease next week in western Europe but rain may remain limited.
There are also concerns about hot, dry weather in central and eastern Europe, including in Germany, Hungary and Romania.
"Maize is suffering from lack of water and unless Germany gets widespread and heavy rain in the next two weeks or so, maize harvest forecasts will probably have to be cut to under 4 million tonnes," a grain analyst said.
Germany harvested 4.2 million tonnes of grain maize in 2021.
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