The Commissions updated analysis of its crop yield forecast, published last week, reveals that total cereal production is expected to be about 9m tonnes or 3.6 per cent- lower than the already reduced yields of 2005.
The forecast provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the European Union, comparing these with last years production and the average harvests over the last five years. It also identifies the areas most affected by drought and heat stress and compares the situation with past extreme events.
And according to the latest estimates, compared with the 2001-2005 averages, this year will see a potential yield decrease for soft wheat, barley and maize of 2.3 per cent, 4.6 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively. Spring barley is also forecast to see a potential decrease of 7.4 per cent.
On the up side, however, durum wheat is expected to have a potential yield increase of 2 per cent.
"Frequent and persistent heat waves associated with dry conditions characterised the whole month of July. At the same time, the drought and the heat stress phenomena moved northward through the continent affecting particularly those areas where the winter crops were still at their sensitive stage (ripening/maturity)," wrote the European Commission in a statement.
"Both in southern and in northern Europe, the spring-summer crops, in full vegetative to flowering phase, were suffering from the above-mentioned conditions. All this also had an impact on water reservoirs, reducing the irrigation resources mainly for grain maize, sugar beet and potatoes," it added.
Indeed, compared to last year, current crop yield estimates for potatoes are down by 4.3 per cent, and for sugar beet by 3 per cent.
And when compared to the 2005 campaign, soft wheat yield estimates have decreased 4 per cent, winter barley 2 per cent, and grain maize 5.1 per cent. For spring barley a potential decrease of 7.4 per cent is forecast.
But compared to the 2003 drought, the overall loss in production is less severe, even though the geographic area affected by the yield reduction is greater, said the Commission.
Germany, Poland, the UK, France and Italy appear to be most affected by this years heat waves and drought.
"Compared to the 2003 drought, the geographic area affected by the yield reduction is greater mainly because in the northernmost regions, high temperatures affected the crops earlier and in their more sensitive stages of development. However, water shortage started later and therefore the yield reduction is lower for the majority of crops (except spring barley)," said the Commission.
It added that depending on the weather conditions that will prevail in the second half of the summer as well as the possible irrigation restrictions for maize, total cereal production can still vary by +/- 3-5m tonnes.