Data from farm agency FranceAgriMer reveal that crop conditions in France fell precipitously last week to their lowest level in at least a decade, as a deepening drought and the recent heatwave burned fields in the European Union’s largest grain producer.
FranceAgriMer reported in a cereal crop report on Friday that an estimated 53% of French grain maize was in good or excellent condition by August 8, down from a revised 62% the previous week.
That was the year’s lowest maize score in FranceAgriMer records dating back to 2011.
This year’s rating has dropped roughly 30 percentage points in the last month, sabotaging a promising start to the growing season.
Maize is one of the crops most vulnerable to France’s worst drought on record, which has been aggravated by a series of heatwaves that have fueled wildfires.
According to FranceAgriMer, 91% of maize was graded good or excellent by the same week last year.
Maize harvests may have suffered additional damage this week as hot weather continued, with temperatures in the southwest forecast to reach near 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) on Friday.
“This week has been one too many, it’s going to cost us dearly,” said Dominique Defay, a maize farmer in the Sarthe and Mayenne areas of northwest France to Reuters.
“I can’t tell what yields are going to be like, there will some crops that are alright and others that are disastrous.”
French farmers are waiting to see if storms predicted for this weekend bring rain and milder temperatures, which might prevent further corn losses.
Other parts of Europe have also experienced severe drought and excessive heat this summer, prompting analysts to lower their forecasts for the EU maize crop this year, which is critical to feeding the bloc’s cattle herd.
This has generated concerns about supply tensions, as supplies from Ukraine, the EU’s largest maize supplier, are still hampered by war, despite a diplomatic agreement to resume maritime trade.
The hot, dry summer is likely to prompt an early start to maize harvesting in France in the coming month, following earlier-than-usual harvests of other cereals.
Farmers finished harvesting spring barley last week, following finishing soft wheat, winter barley, and durum wheat, according to FranceAgriMer.
Reporter based in Paris who focuses on commodities, mostly agriculture, and the impact of production on health, the economy, and the environment.