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Parts of German grain crop seen as worst in decade
BERLIN ,Parts of Germany are heading for their worst grains harvest in a decade due to a combination of unusual weather patterns culminating in this summer's drought, agriculture ministry sources and farmers groups said on Friday.
This year's harvest could even be the worst on record if it remains dry in August, said Jens-Uwe Schade, spokesman for the agriculture ministry in the eastern state of Brandenburg.
"We don't know yet because we have only results from the early sowings, we still have to see how the late cultures develop, but it could be the worst ever if it stays the same in August," Schade said.
Germany's DBV farming federation said winter barley plantings in southern and south-western Germany as well as in the eastern states had already been 80 percent harvested.
It said winter barley yields were much lower than last year. In south-west Germany, yields were 15 to 30 percent lower, with yields in east Germany some 35 to 75 percent down.
The DBV said the quality of the harvests had also suffered, with farmers reporting an increased proportion of small grains.
The DBV said yields for other grain varieties and rapeseed had also been hit by the cold winter and lack of rain.
Rapeseed yields so far were up to 50 percent lower, with east German crops particularly poor.
The DBV said farmers had reported that yields of rye and other more robust grain varieties had also been poor.
The DBV said it was too early to assess the full damage to crops but below-average harvests could be expected on 440,000 hectares of land due to winter frosts and drought damage.
Schade said it was already clear Brandenburg's harvest looked set to be the worst since 1992.
According to forecasts released by the state on Thursday, Brandenburg's winter barley crop would be between 1.9 and 4.1 tonnes per hectare this year compared with an average in the past five years of 5.5 tonnes.
The winter wheat harvest is expected to fall to 2.6 and 5.1 tonnes per hectare from an average 6.0 tonnes.
Winter rape is forecast at 1.7 tonnes a hectare compared with last year's 3.0 tonnes.
Iris Uellendahl, spokeswoman for the agriculturally rich eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, said yields of winter barley there were expected to be 35 to 40 percent lower than last year, adding the state was not as hard hit as Brandenburg.
Based on estimates made in June, winter grains and rapeseed harvests were expected to be 10 to 20 percent below the average of the past five years, she said. New forecasts are due next week.
Fruit and vegetable harvests are also suffering, leading to a pick up in seasonal food prices in shops that is beginning to drive inflation. Jam makers have warned of sharp price increases due to lower strawberry and other soft fruit crops.
According to DBV, rainfall in east Germany in the first six months of this year was 80 percent lower than the long-term average.
It said farmers stood to lose over 800 million euros ($900 million) due to the poor harvests.
MGR Archive 19.7.2003
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