German grain harvest 6 pct below average in 2019 due to heat, drought

Following the heat and drought of 2018, conditions were difficult again this year and the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) reported a grain harvest of 45 million tons for 2019 in its harvest balance report presented on Friday.

Even excluding last year, the grain harvest for 2019 would still be about six percent less than the average for the previous five harvest years, which was around 48 million tons, according to DBV.

“All in all, we can see that the weather extremes are increasing,” DBV President Joachim Rukwied told the German Press Agency.

In June and July, some regions of Germany had days with temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius which “will depress yields” while other regions had sufficient precipitation, Rukwied noted.

The weather extremes made it “difficult” to select resistant plant varieties, Rukwied said.

Already in July, the Association had lowered its expectations for the German grain harvest and had forecast a volume of 44 million to 45 million tons of grain for 2019.

“We cannot change the weather, but we can rely more on mulch and no-till methods in arable farming, for example,” Rukwied said, when asked how German farmers were adapting to the changed weather conditions.

The German government and the European Commission could help farmers financially, but that would not change the basic problem, according to Rukwied.

Federal Agricultural Minister Julia Kloeckner had classified the 2018 harvest damage, which primarily affected the north and east of Germany, as an event of “national proportions”.

German farmers in a financial situation threatening their existence had received a total of 228 million euros (252 million U.S. dollars) in state aid to date, with the largest single sum of 69.7 million euros going to the federal state of Brandenburg.

The German government and 14 federal states had each promised aid of up to 170 million euros to farmers whose financial situation threatened their livelihoods.

This year, too, livestock farmers with scarce fodder reserves would be able to use additional land areas due to drought, according to the German agriculture ministry, which will be presenting its harvest report on 29 August.

“If it does not rain, it will not help. In nature we work with the weather and sometimes it is hard,” Rukwied warned.

Anton Hofreiter, leader of the German Green parliamentary group, called on minister Kloeckner to present a comprehensive agricultural strategy.

“For the second year in succession, many farmers face a situation that threatens their very existence, while agriculture minister Kloeckner stands there empty-handed,” Hofreiter told the German newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.