Weather damaged spring crops registered declines between 30-50 percent as harvest finishes nearly a month earlier than normal.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: RO1221
Romanian spring crops withered by heat and drought
Grain and Feed
Oilseeds and Products
Michael Henney, Agricultural Attaché
Monica Dobrescu, Agricultural Specialist
Weather damaged spring crops registered declines between 30-50 percent as harvest finishes nearly a month
earlier than normal. Danube River terminals found the drought reduced water flow critically low in August-
early September not as onerous as it allowed greater time to source commodities to fulfill contracts. Low river
flow prevented and generally slowed commodity movement to Constanta, the country’s main Black Sea
terminal port, during this period. Domestic support meant to compensate the drought effects and rising
production costs provided little satisfaction to commercial producers.
Despite the promising start in May, when abundant rainfall significantly enhanced soil moisture levels, corn
production deteriorated as the growing season progressed. The hot, dry days in June-July coincided with the
critical pollination period and had a clear impact on ultimate development of kernels per ear. The very dry
conditions spurred variations in yields from area to another, even from one plot to another, despite the fact
that farmers applied the same technology and inputs on the fields.
Farmers applying irrigation achieved 7-8 MT/HA. On non-irrigated land yields dropped below 2 MT/HA. In
isolated areas, farmers who had applied water conservation practices were able to achieve relatively modest
yields on non-irrigated acreage. Timing of planting also influenced crop success. For example, corn performed
better in some areas planted earlier in the spring compared to areas planted during expert defined “optimal”
planting period, as pollination occurred when conditions proved more favorable. Due to heat and dryness most
corn reached maturity much earlier than normal, with harvest starting about one month early this year.
Due to the unfavorable growing environment the corn crop is revised downward to 6.1 million MT in 2012, or a
drop of 42 percent as compared to the previous year. Producers across the southern and eastern production
region report lose in the 30-50 percent range. Total production declined though acreage had expanded in the
spring by 3.7 percent, from 2.589 to 2.685 million HA. Initial harvest results show the average yield to be about
2.3 MT/HA, a fall from 4.1 MT/HA a year earlier. The Ministry of Agriculture (AgMinistry) has not released any
official preliminary figures on the corn harvest to avoid creating any disturbances in the local market.
Rapeseeds poor winter survival performance encouraged farmers to replant part of the winter-killed acreage to
sunflower, leading to an expansion in planted acreage of approximately 11 percent (1.1 million HA). Romania’s
drought affected the sunflower crop to a lesser extent than corn, as production is estimated down only by about
25 percent. Production is anticipated at 1.38 MMT, which is equivalent to an average yield of 1.23 MT/HA,
compared to 1.8 MT/HA recorded in 2011. While sunflower heads were generally smaller in size, the plant
density per HA compensated for the loss in weight. This year’s production is expected to be sufficient to cover
both domestic crush requirements and foreign (export) demand.
Similarly to corn, dryness and heat accelerated the maturation process. Harvesting started in early August, two
weeks earlier than normal. Initial harvest results indicated lower oil content, not more than 37-38 percent, but
as the harvest advanced the aggregate crop oil content approached normal levels.
Wheat production remains at 4.95 Million MT (versus 7.1 MMT in 2011) while barley production remains at 0.96
MMT (versus 1.3 MMT in 2011). Wheat exports are expected to fall to 1.6 million MT, about 25 percent lower
than the previous year. Romania’s price competitiveness remains strong however, as in September it was
awarded contracts for about 300,000 MT of wheat for Egypt.
The rapeseed crop was drastically affected by the harsh winter with, almost three quarters of the acreage
replanted in the spring. Total rapeseed acreage plunged from 360,000 HA planted in the fall to 91,000 HA by
the spring. Production is estimated at 140,000 MT, versus 750,000 MT last year. Average yield was about 16
percent lower than the excellent yields recorded in 2011. Given the diminished supply, exports are unlikely to
exceed 15 percent of last year’s volume of 600,000 MT. Domestic crush demand will likely require some
imports in order to be satisfied.
Danube River Situation
The droughts’ impact on the Southeast European region manifested as severely reduced inflow into the Danube
River basin resulting in barges and ships flow with difficulty in the southern river area for nearly three weeks in
August. By mid-September, water flow had increased to 2.5 meters at the Ruse terminals, up from 1.5 meters
recorded in the 1st week of September. Romania dredged the main river channel at several points west of this
location to enable light barge traffic to continue from upstream. In late-September several Bulgarian terminals
east of this location remained inaccessible as Bulgarian authorities had not contracted for their dredging.
Bulgarian producers, in turn, transported commodities overland to export terminals in Vargas and Burgas. By
mid-September Romania’s Constanta port remained near on target regarding the volume of grains and oilseeds
transiting the port, in part due largely to earlier arrival of grains and oilseeds from upriver suppliers in Hungary
and Serbia. Nevertheless, given the lower available supplies in Romania and the above-mentioned countries,
traders expect the volume of commodities transiting Constanta Port to fall significantly in comparison to the
Crop perspectives in 2013
Satellite imagery shows a fair improvement in soil moisture as a result of precipitation during the third week of
September throughout the country (please see below the graph). Nevertheless, the long-awaited precipitation
was insufficient to replace depleted soil moisture levels, thus the subsurface soil moisture remains notably
under level registered last year. Although the images below pertain only to two regions in Romania, the
situation is similar throughout the country.
AFWA/LIS Precipitation (September 21 –30, 2012)
Given the current dryness, farmers in many regions are finding it very difficult and costly to sow winter crops
(rapeseeds, wheat, and barley). Under these conditions, water conservative agriculture practices, with
minimum till, are being adopted at an increasing rate among farmers. In case of rapeseed, the optimal
timeframe for sowing was the end of August. Farmers who were able to prepare the land and sow their
rapeseeds benefitted by the September rainfall as it created good conditions for seed germination.
Nonetheless, many farmers find rapeseed too risky crop, especially after the experience of this past year, and
are adjusting their crop structure in favor of spring crops. Rapeseeds planted acreage, as a consequence, is
projected to decline by 45 percent compared to the previous year.
Wheat sowing is ongoing and recent precipitations will help ensure good germination conditions prior to
winter’s arrival. Wheat acreage is expected to be similar to last year (1.9 million HA).
During the summer, when the drought effects became certain, the AgMinistry assured farmers they will receive
compensations for income loss under the scheme of minimis aid. In September, however, the Romanian
Government limited the minimis aid at 100 RON/HA (about 30 USD/HA) to small farmers (1-10 HA), regardless
the farm’s crop structure or magnitude of loss. The AgMinistry estimates that about 600,000 farms (commercial
and non-commercial), cultivating 1.9 million HA (23 percent of the total arable land), will apply for this form of
compensation. This measure was strongly criticized by the farmers’ associations, who perceive this subsidy
more as a populist message in advance of the December Parliament election, rather than as an incentive for
increasing the producer’s competitiveness.
On the other hand, direct payments to farmers are expected to be disbursed earlier in the fall than in previous
years. The maximum level that AgMinistry allocated for this purpose is 170 EURO/HA, of which 120 EURO is
funded from EU (SAPS) and 50 EURO/HA is funded by the national budget. While admitting this level is higher
than last year, agricultural producers demand the AgMinistry to raise the national payment component up to
100 EURO/HA in order to compensate part of their rising production costs.
Related reports: Drought in Romania Lessens Danube River transportation
Corn and Sunflower crops Affected by Persistent Drought