The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has forecast lower yields in this year’s harvest of crops such as sunflower and wheat due to the current drought conditions affecting much of the European Union.

The Commission said winter crops suffered from the effects of a harsh winter and late spring frost. The adverse conditions continued with a heat wave starting as early as June in some parts.

The yield of total wheat (including soft wheat and durum wheat varieties) is expected to be 6.6% lower compared to last year. The most affected countries contributing to the low European yields are France (about 9% below average results), Germany (7% below average), Italy (12.3% below average) and Portugal (15% below average).

The yield of grain maize is expected to be 10.1% lower compared to last year. The exceptionally low soil moisture in summer is expected to decrease the average yield to 8.2 tonnes per hectare where the European average (1998-2002) is 9.0 t/ha. Possible restrictions to irrigation could further decrease the EU figure, the Commission said.

The rapeseed yield is expected to be 4.2% lower than last year. In Germany and France, results are expected to be around 11% and 10% lower than average.

The sunflower yield is expected to be 25% lower than last year. The areas most affected will be Spain and Italy.

The yield of sugar beet is expected to be 7.2% lower than last year. The areas of production around the English Channel and the North Sea appear to be the least affected.

The potato yield is expected to be 2.0% lower compared to last year. The quality of the product could also be affected.

The Commission also announced proposals for further support measures for farmers hit by drought.

Commenting on these measures Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said: “It is clear that in circumstances such as these, Member States have primary responsibility and can take appropriate measures, including through amending their rural development programmes and by adopting eligible state aids.”

The Commission added, however, that it is acutely aware of the difficulties some European farmers are facing due to the extremely severe drought prevailing in certain regions of Europe.

More details on the measures can be found here.