Drought-hit Spain to raise wheat imports by 1.3m tonnes in 2017-18

Spain's wheat imports will rise by more than 1.3m tonnes next season, inflated by the dent to prospects from the newly-started harvest from hot and dry weather, which has cost some 1m tonnes in barley output too.
Agroinfomarket, the Spanish analysis group, hiked by 850,000 tonnes to 5.53m tonnes its forecast for the country's 2017-18 imports of soft wheat, which are used largely to feed the nation's growing livestock herd.
The upgrade – which put imports on course to grow 1.35m tonnes year on year – reflected a dent from the hot and dry weather also highlighted last week by Mars, the official European crop monitoring bureau.
Agroinfomarket said that "in just the month and a half that has elapsed since our previous estimate, the productive potential has been reduced by approximately 1m tonnes in the case of soft wheat and around 1.5m tonnes in barley".
'Scenario more likely to worsen'
Indeed, the group cut its forecast for Spanish soft wheat output this year to 4.95m tonnes - a drop of more than one-quarter year on year, and taking the figure well below estimates from many other commentators.
The International Grains Council last month pegged Spanish soft wheat output at some 5.5m tonnes.
Agroinfomarket cut its barley harvest forecast to 6.15m tonnes, taking it 35% below last year's result.
And the group warned that further downgrades may be in offing, saying that "given the high temperatures that are occurring at the moment, the scenario is more likely to worsen", especially in central regions of the country.
'Despair of importers'
The deterioration stands in stark contrast to the high hopes for the crops evident into March, when farmers' bigger problem appeared to be "how to get rid of the bulky stocks they accumulated" after a strong harvest last year.
Indeed, grains were transported from the Duero region in north central Spain to Galacia in the far north west, Catalonia in the north east "even Andalusia, leaving few options to the enormous stocks that the foreign was stored in ports, to the despair of importers".
Wheat exports to Spain from the UK, a major shipper of feed wheat to the country, are down 75% in 2016-17, as of the July-to-March period, although this is also reflective of relatively tight and high-quality UK supplies.
'Water stressed'
Last week, Mars - cutting its forecast for the Spanish soft wheat yield by 12% to 2.97 tonnes per hectare, and for the spring barley crop by 15% to 2.60 tonnes per hectare – said that April rainfall was "among the lowest of the past two decades in the northern half of the Iberian peninsula.
"Winter cereals in Spain are water stressed, especially in Castilla y Leon."
Indeed, Mars termed Castilla y Leon the "most affected region", where crops "exhibit a sharp decrease in photosynthetic activity, as inferred from satellite imagery, indicating a significant reduction in yield potential".

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