In Bulgaria and in many parts of the Balkans, hot and dry conditions persisted over the summer, exacerbating the impacts of the acute dryness and long-term rain deficits that prevailed hitherto. The summer saw many days with the daily maximum temperatures peaking beyond 35 degrees celsius in Bulgaria and parts of the Balkans.
The weather problems have caused crop concerns among most grains and oilseed farmers. The insufficient rainfall combined with occasional peaks in temperature added up to stress summer crops, with negative effects on the yield outlook. Yields for the summer oilseed crops which were expected to be significantly higher than in previous years reduced significantly.
The 2022-23 Bulgarian sunflower crop is thus projected to be just around 2 million mt just as the output of the previous crop year. Although the total planted area increased significantly, yields are not expected to increase but rather to decline. Relatedly, the corn crop is also expected to be less than initially projected: corn yield has gone down from 5.8 mt per hectare last year to 4.8 mt per hectare this year. The total corn production output is expected to be 2.7 million mt.
The same can be said of rapeseed production in Bulgaria. The 2022-23 crop is revised down by 25% to 0.29 million mt on the back of the losses to yield potential. These challenges did not only affect crops in Bulgaria and the Balkans but also those in Europe. According to the August issue of the JRC MARS Bulletin - Crop monitoring in Europe, at the EU level, the yield of sunflowers is down by 6%. The latest report goes further to put sunflower yield at 1.97 mt per hectare.
Bulgaria seems to have derived some gains from the ongoing conflict between Russia- Ukraine- after the start of the war, Bulgarian crushers imported a record number of sunflower seeds from Ukraine and went on to become the topmost exported processed products in the European Union. Exports of wheat from Bulgaria have shot up significantly shipping a significant amount of wheat to offset the shortfall that had arisen from both Ukraine and Russia’s inability to export wheat at the height of the conflict. The conflict produced a series of major impacts on the global wheat and oilseeds market with Bulgaria taking advantage of it.
Preparation of the land for the next sunflower planting will begin close to the end of the first quarter of 2023. It is the expectation all else equal, that a lot more land will be prepared for the seeding of the crops. However, increased fertiliser and other input costs may push farmers to plant less than expected. With the trend that oilseeds prices have been on recently, it is projected that farmers will somewhat try and plant more to benefit from the elevated prices next year.