In marketing year (MY) 2019/20, Bulgaria’s total grain harvest was 8.5 percent above MY 2018/19, including almost 4.0 million metric tons (MMT) of corn, a production record. Higher domestic stocks, favorable export demand, and lower domestic consumption, supported the increase in exports. As of early April 2020, wheat exports increased by 29 percent over April 2019, barley exports increased by 44 percent, and corn exports similarly were up by 60 percent, due to substantial demand outside of the European Union (EU) following the global COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite dry conditions during fall 2019 and for most of winter 2019/20, snowfall during the second half of March provided much needed precipitation in many parts of the country, although eastern Bulgaria remains dry. Spring planting is on track, despite some input supply chain disruptions in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Assuming favorable weather conditions, Post expects MY 2020/21 grain production will be comparable to MY 2019/20.
After drought conditions in fall 2019, winter 2019/20 weather was mild and warm, with below normal levels of precipitation. According to EU Monitoring Agricultural Resources (MARS) data (Bulletin Vol.28, No 3), between December 2019 and March 2020, Bulgaria saw a positive thermal anomaly of 1.0°C and 4.5°C. Soil moisture levels in Eastern Bulgaria were consistently below average. Biomass accumulation was close to or above normal, primarily due to mild winter temperatures, which facilitated crop development.
Unusually cold and snowy weather during the latter half of March helped replenish depleted soil moisture levels. However, the northeastern part of the country, which accounts for over one-third of total grain production, remains as one of the driest regions in Europe, as indicated by the satellite images. Temperatures and evaporation stress through early April were about average. Early April weather has been warm and dry, and generally favorable for spring planting.
MY 2020/21 Forecast…
Private crop assessments from late March showed well-developed winter grains. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture (MinAg), year-on-year area planted for wheat held steady (0.2 percent difference). Most planting was later than usual due to fall dryness. A reduction in the rapeseed area parlayed into a 13-percent increase in area planted for barley. To date, grain producers have not taken any severe hits due to the COVID-19 crisis. Spring corn and other spring grain planting was on track as of early April. Seed suppliers reported supply chain delays for imported seeds from Western Europea and United States in mid-March, although seed deliveries were back on schedule as of early April. Some scheduled marketing campaigns and training activities for farmers were canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Fieldwork was challenging in late March due to social distancing requirements, but that situation improved as of early April. Demand among farmers for corn seed has been strong and suggests that last year’s record-high for corn area planted will persist through MY 2020/21. Post continues to forecast average yields for wheat, barley, and corn, below MY 2019/20 levels.
MY 2019/20 Production Estimates and Trade…
The total area harvested for cereal grains in MY 2019/20 increased by 5.2 percent, and cereal production by 8.5 percent over MY 2018/19. Final crop estimates for wheat and barley are higher than previously expected due to rainy spring weather (April-May). Corn production achieved a historic record of almost 4.0 MMT, mainly due to sharp growth (26 percent) in area planted. Although many expected that corn yields would be above average due to the rainy spring, the dry and hot weather after mid-July resulted in a 10-percent yield decline from the previous season.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service