Satellite data shows drop in European crop yields

Brussels, 20 Sep 2006

Scientists at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) have used satellite imagery to estimate that European crop yields will be lower in 2006 than in 2005. This is due to the unseasonably hot July, increasing the total area subject to drought. This is the second consecutive year that crop harvests have fallen. This year yields will drop to an estimated total of 9 million tonnes, 3.6 per cent lower than last year. Wheat is down by 4 per cent, winter barley by 2.0 per cent, grain maize by 5.1 per cent, potato by 4.3 per cent, and sugar beet by 3.0 per cent.

Compared to the drought of 2003, the overall area affected is greater, with Germany, the UK, Poland, France and Italy the most severely affected. However, despite the greater area affected by drought, the overall drop in production is less pronounced than in 2003. Crops are expected to be 7 per cent higher than in 2003.

Water shortages did not arrive until later in the year, thereby reducing the impact of the heat wave. The dry conditions led to the depletion of water reservoirs, even in permanent forage areas. This led the European Commission to allow farmers to use areas not normally open for feeding.

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