Will record temperatures in southern Europe affect EU sugar beet cultivation?
While the media is currently focusing on the heatwave and forest fires currently raging in southern Europe, for sugar and sugar beet cultivation, our attention should be directed further north.
No rain in Spain, even on the plains
Southern Europe is currently facing a period of extreme heat, with parts of Spain, Italy and Greece experiencing sustained temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius and have been for over a week.
Most of Spain had been on drought alert in June according to the European Drought Observatory, the most severe rating the EDO gives.
Similarly, rainfall in the sugar beet regions of Spain has been particularly weak so far this year, at around 20% of the 10-year average. However, this reflects the 2022 growing season.
But while this heatwave is significant for other reasons, these three Mediterranean countries only account for around 3-5% of total EU and UK sugar production per season and the risk of adverse weather has already been built into our forecasts somewhat.
The sugar beet belt is much more important
Weather in the ‘sugar beet belt’ (France, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, UK) is much more important for the health of EU and UK sugar beet crops, these countries typically account for around 70-80% of total sugar production.
Currently, there is a less severe warning for vegetation stress across northern Europe, covering the sugar beet belt.
This is reflected in soil moisture well below average in the beet regions of at least Germany, Poland and the Netherlands:
Each case roughly follows the pattern of last year where August 2022 experienced one of the worst droughts in recent years in this region of Europe.
There are growing expectations that conditions this year will be the same, which will potentially put the sugar beet harvest under similar stress if there is even worse to come for sugar beet belt producers.
Even if the current drought warnings were to escalate beyond the scope of last summer, there are still very real risks of further declines.
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