WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Bulgarian farmers increased their wheat planted area by 8% and reduced barley area by an estimated 7% in market year 2016-17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a July 7 report. Corn planting has been done at a much faster rate than in the previous season and in the optimum timeframe. However, total corn planted area is currently estimated to decline by 10%. 

The spring weather conditions to date have been good with rainfall and mild temperatures which provided an optimistic start for corn and increased the yield potential for the winter grains. The temperatures in the second 10 days of June exceeded 30 -35 degrees Celsius, and while they were favorable for early barley and wheat harvest, they have begun to deplete soil moisture reserves for the spring crops. 

The report said current concerns for the wheat crop are related to losses as a result of hail storms and potential quality issues due to reoccurring rains. Rainy spring weather led to higher risks of fungi diseases (such as yellow rust) and pests and the need for more fungicide applications. Reportedly, southern Bulgaria was affected by fungi diseases more than the northern part. However, any disease control has been challenging due to inability to access wet fields while at the same time it led to higher costs and expected lower profitability. Estimated milling wheat share is likely in the range of 45%-50% as compared to 50%-55% last season. Wheat production is estimated at 5 million tonnes. 

The barley harvest began in mid-June and the wheat harvest commenced around June 20. First reported barley yields are 9% higher than a year ago. Barley production is estimated at 735,000 tonnes, the report said.

The report projects higher than previously expected average yields for wheat, barley and corn. Total grain production is currently forecast to reach about 8.5 million tonnes. 

Market year 2015-16 grain exports have accelerated in April and May. As of June 20, the country has exported 3.2 million tonnes of wheat, 422,000 tonnes of barley, and 1.1 million tonnes of corn. Although this may lead to slightly lower than previously projected wheat ending stocks, still the accumulated stocks are likely to couple with a bigger new wheat crop and may cause some logistical challenges while the heavy balance may depress the market prices, the report said.