LONDON, ENGLAND — The European Union’s grain output in 2020-21 is forecast to decline by 3% over the previous year due to extremely challenging planting conditions in France and the United Kingdom, according to a May 6 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Output is expected to reach 304 million tonnes, down from 315 million in 2019-20, the USDA said.

“If realized, this will be very close to both the five- and 10-year production averages but belies a reduction in area of around 500,000 hectares and 1 million hectares, respectively, and corresponding increases in average grain yields,” the USDA said.

The projected sharp decline in grain production in the UK and France is due to “a very wet fall and a long, mild and wet winter,” which has disrupted planting and raised disease concerns, the USDA said.

With both France and the UK each projected to see a more than a 5-million-tonne reduction in their 2020-21 wheat crops, EU wheat output is forecast to fall by nearly 11 million tonnes year-on-year to 144 million tonnes due to a 700,000-hectare decrease in planted area.

The USDA projects EU grain exports to decline 10%, from 43.7 million tonnes to 39.3 million tonnes.

EU ending stocks also will tumble, according to the USDA, to 25 million tonnes from 28.8 million tonnes, a drop of 13% year-on-year.

“The big unknown for both the remaining months of 2019-20 (which ends June 30) and for 2020-21 is the impact of COVID-19 on the grain balances,” the USDA said. “The forecasts do not currently reflect substantial changes, but this situation will need to be monitored closely.”