Bulgarian wheat crop at 4-year low

SOFIA – Bulgaria sees its 2007 wheat crop down 30 percent to around 2.2 million tons, a four-year low, due to drought, a farm ministry official said yesterday. The forecast was higher than the estimate of 1.5 million tons by farmers, who said the lack of moisture had lowered yields and destroyed many of the 1.04 million hectares of wheat sown. The last time the crop was so low was in 2003, when the wheat harvest fell to 2 million tons due to reduced sowings and dry weather. «The 2007 wheat crop is expected to be around 30 percent less than last year’s following the unusual dry and hot weather. But the country’s wheat balance is not in danger,» the source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. The source, quoting a report by a state commission on monitoring the impact of unfavourable weather on grains, said the weaker 2007 crop would cut exports but could not specify by how much. Bulgaria has exported around 834,000 tons from its 2006 wheat crop, which stood at 3.2 million tons. The agriculture ministry has so far declined to publish an official crop forecast, saying it would be inaccurate because of twists in the weather. It may do so in two weeks, the source said. French analyst Strategie Grains has lowered its estimate of European Union grain output by 2.6 million tons to 121.8 millions mainly due to the dry weather that has hit yields. The lack of precipitation has also hit Bulgaria’s barley, and the agriculture ministry source said preliminary estimates showed the crop would be down by some 25 percent to around 413,000 tons from 550,000 last year. Farmers have launched nationwide protests and are demanding state aid. The agriculture ministry said it would distribute compensation.

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