Spanish Wheat Harvest Seen Sharply Lower In 2009

Farmers in Castilla-Leon, the northern region of Spain that normally accounts for around half of the nation's wheat production, will harvest 45% less wheat than in 2008 according to the regional government there.

In what is becoming an all too familiar story, sharply lower prices last autumn when wheat was being drilled caused farmers to reduce plantings. Many have also cut fertiliser application in the face of tightening credit, they said. Barley production in the region will fall 47%, they added.

Many farmers in the region chose to either leave land fallow or plant lower-maintenance crops like rape, sunflowers, field peas or vetches.

Freak storms hit the region at the weekend which may push grain output even lower, according to media sources. The extent of the damage done to winter grains and sunflowers is still being assessed.

Prior to the weekend, on a national level the 2009 grain harvest was already forecast to fall between 34-42%, according to various estimates from farmers unions and grain merchants. That would give us a national grain crop of 13.5-15.4 MMT, compared to 23.3 MMT a year ago.

Even with a bumper crop like last year's, Spain is expected to have still imported around 8 MMT of grain when the current marketing year ends on June 30th.