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EU Crops Struggle Amid Worst Growing Conditions in Decades

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From France to Germany and Hungary to Romania, a broad range of crops have been withering through the summer’s heat waves, threatening to drive food prices in the European Union higher and reduce supplies from the world’s largest exporter of agricultural and food products. 

Growing conditions for the region’s crops are at their worst levels in decades. Gro’s vegetative health index, weighted for total cropland area in the EU and UK using Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, is at its lowest level in more than 20 years. The Index is a key indicator of plant health. 

In addition, the Gro Drought Index shows “moderate” levels of drought across the region’s croplands — the highest reading in two decades — while soil moisture levels are the lowest since at least 2010. 

View Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator display, weighted for EU countries’ cropland, showing metrics for temperature, precipitation, vegetative health, drought, soil moisture, and more. And schedule a demo with our sales team to learn how Climate Risk Navigator can be tailored to your organization’s needs.

Soil moisture levels across European Union croplands (red line) are at their lowest levels since at least 2010, curtailing crop production. This chart, from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, shows daily updates of soil moisture readings.

Decreased agricultural production in the EU comes at a time when many key global commodities are in short supply and Ukraine is struggling to resume exports amid its war with Russia. These supply disruptions, coupled with sharply elevated food and fertilizer prices, have exacerbated a worldwide food security crisis that threatens to last for years. 

The EU is the world’s second-largest exporter of wheat, supplying many countries in Africa and the Middle East. While poor weather will reduce EU wheat production this year compared with a year ago, as Gro wrote about here, the bloc nevertheless expects to increase exports as Ukraine shipments remain severely limited. 

In France, the EU’s top wheat producer, successive heat waves this spring drove the Gro vegetative health index and soil moisture levels sharply lower in the weeks leading up to the start of harvest in late June. This was partly offset by less adverse growing conditions in No. 2 producer Germany, where wheat production is forecast to be slightly higher year over year. 

The EU is a major producer of corn, but also imports large volumes for animal feed. Imports this year may need to rise as corn production falters in big producers France and Hungary, where the Gro Drought Index weighted for cropland shows “severe” levels of drought. 

Other major crops also are suffering from poor weather. The lowest soil moisture levels in at least a decade are weighing on sugar beets and potatoes — with France, Germany, and Poland accounting for most of these crops. And in Romania, the EU’s biggest producer of sunflowers, “moderate” drought levels point to a weaker harvest that may increase demand for EU vegetable oil imports, as Gro wrote about here.

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