BELGRADE, SERBIA — Drought and high temperatures lowered Serbia’s wheat and corn crops in 2022-23, but estimates for this season’s crop are optimistic, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture.

The 2022 summer nearly matched the drought of 2017, one of the worst on record. Total losses in agriculture production are estimated to be close to $1 billion.

Wheat production was estimated at 3.2 million tonnes in 2022-23, a 6% decrease from the previous season. The planted area for 2023-24 increased 6%, with production estimated to potentially reach more than 3.5 million tonnes.

This is sufficient to meet domestic needs of 1.7 million tonnes, leaving a surplus of 1.5 million tonnes of wheat available for export, the FAS said.

Corn production in 2022-23 reached only 5 million tonnes due to dry conditions from May to August 2022, along with very high temperatures.

Production for 2023-24 is estimated at 6.5 million tonnes, but precipitation and temperatures in spring and summer will influence the final size of the crop, the FAS said. At 6.5 million tonnes, Serbia will have sufficient corn for domestic use at 4.2 million tonnes and about 2.3 million tonnes for exports.

Serbia’s grain exports have been significantly affected by the war in Ukraine. About 80% of Serbia’s grain exports travel via Black Sea ports, which have not always been accessible since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Additionally, the Serbian government imposed an export ban and quotas on wheat, wheat flour, rye, corn, cornmeal and sunflower oil for nearly five months from March to July 2022.

Serbian farmers, millers, oilseeds associations, exporters, and logistics companies protested the measures to limit exports of oilseeds from Serbia and asked for compensation from the state for not being able to export their commodities at then-world record high prices, the FAS said.

Exports are expected to reach record lows in 2022-23 because of the export ban, high grain domestic prices, limited river transportation capacity and significant summer drought.