Europe’s parched earth hits corn hard as the climate crisis reverberates

Searing temperatures are shrinking corn crops across Europe in the latest sign of a deepening crisis that is affecting everything from transport down the Rhine to Spain’s olive growers.

In spring, corn is under stress from lack of rain as the region grapples with rolling heat waves. Three-quarters of Romania, Europe’s largest producer, has been hit by droughts of varying severity, while largest producer France had its driest July on record. Farmers in parts of eastern Germany could lose their entire harvest.

“Last weekend I saw fields where the corn was just above my knees,” said Helmut Messner from the German Maize Farmers’ Committee. “Parts of it are already brown, so no photosynthesis is taking place because the leaves have already died. It’s usually 2.5 to 3 meters tall at this time of year.”


Freshly harvested corn is harvested by a combine harvester on a farm owned by Hodagro Zrt. operated, emptied into a trailer. Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Europe’s cornfields are the latest victims of weeks of dry, hot weather, which have also severely reduced water flow in major rivers like the Rhine, Rhone, Danube and Po.

That cripples both irrigation and shipping, chokes on coal transport and French nuclear production, while Europe tries to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

The invasion of Moscow has also curbed corn shipments from Ukraine as the intense summer heat chokes the European Union’s own harvest.

While corn prices dampened a nearly 10 percent gain last week when the first shipment of grain left the port of Odessa – under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey – they remain far higher than usual at this time of year.


A field of dry corn on a farm in Hodmezovasarhely, Hungary. Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

“Certainly this season was one where European corn would be of increasing importance in filling the supply gap left by Ukraine,” said Peter Collier, Senior Market Adviser at UK-based CRM AgriCommodities. “But as EU corn suffers and production estimates are cut, grain supply will continue to be stretched.”

The European Union has lowered its forecast for this season’s corn harvest to 65.8 million tonnes, which would be the lowest since 2018-19. This could be revised further down if conditions in France and other countries deteriorate.

The drought is also affecting Ukraine, with the Odessa and Vynnytsia regions yielding less-than-expected harvests, according to the country’s Agricultural Council.

Some farmers have enough. Faced with the drought that began four years ago, Mihai Anghel stopped planting corn for the first time in 25 years. The owner of the Romanian Cerealcom group has instead replaced corn with sunflowers, which are more drought-resistant.


The drought hits Hungary hard. Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

“I was aware of the pervasive soil water shortage,” he said. “It’s the most intractable drought in the last 20 years that I can remember.”

In Hungary, the water level of the Danube has dropped significantly due to a lack of rainfall and the harvest is expected to be the worst since at least 2010.

The drought is also affecting other industries. In Germany, the Rhine is so low that utilities and chemical companies have difficulty transporting materials up the river from the North Sea to factories upstream. They have to switch to more expensive means of transport such as rail and road.

©Bloomberg Europe’s parched earth hits corn hard as the climate crisis reverberates

Fry Electronics Team

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