BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Dry weather in several regions of Europe is driving down the European Union’s forecast for 2022-23 cereals production below 2021-22 levels, although existing stocks will help meet domestic needs and some export demand, according to a European Commission report.

In its latest short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets, the Commission said cereal prices remain high and volatile due to uncertainty about the global level of supply caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which aggravated high energy and fertilizer prices and the post-COVID demand for animal feed.

Total EU cereals production is expected to reach 286.4 million tonnes, 2.5% lower than the season of 2021-22. However, the demand for animal feed and for cereals to produce biofuels is expected to decrease by 1.3% and 3% respectively, and the EU has relatively high cereal stocks. 

EU exports of cereals are expected to increase by 14% compared to 2021-22, partially offsetting the reduction in global exports being caused by the blockage of Ukrainian sea ports and export restrictions that have been put in place by some exporters. Russia and Ukraine together have accounted for about 30% of the world’s wheat exports in recent years. Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter, while Ukraine is fourth in corn exports and the top shipper of sunflower oil.

The easing of regulations to allow the production of any crops for food and feed purposes on fallow land, granted in March by the Commission, resulted in an increase in sown areas of protein crops for 2022-23. The EU projects a 6% increase in area planted (2.2 million hectares) for protein crops year-on-year. Thanks to the increased production, EU exports of protein crops are expected to grow by 19% compared with last year. 

Farmers also used this opportunity to plant sunflower, because of its relatively low water and fertilization requirements. Estimated sowing areas of sunflower have reached 4.7 million hectares, an increase of 7.8% over last year. This season, EU sunflower seed production is expected to reach an all-time high of 11.1 million tonnes, an increase of 7.8%.