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UPDATE 1-EU cuts maize crop forecast to 15-year low

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PARIS, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Friday cut its forecast for this year's maize harvest in the European Union to 55.5 million tonnes from 59.3 million in late August, joining other forecasters in projecting a 15-year low for the drought-hit crop.

The 6.4% decrease marked the third sharp reduction in a row to the Commission's monthly forecast for the maize harvest.

A historic drought hit maize crops in Europe this summer, exacerbated by heatwaves.

The Commission did not refer to weather conditions but said the reduced maize outlook mainly reflected lower area or yield projections for Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

The EU's executive raised its forecast of EU maize imports in the 2022/23 season, to 21 million tonnes from 20 million expected a month ago, and lowered projected EU maize exports to 3.5 million from 4 million tonnes.

It also cut expected use of maize in livestock feed in the EU by 4.2 million tonnes to 60.5 million.

In contrast, the Commission raised its forecast of EU usable production of common wheat, or soft wheat, in 2022/23 to 127.0 million tonnes from 126.0 million last month, and increased estimated barley output to 51.5 million tonnes from 50.4 million.

It shifted some feed demand from maize towards soft wheat, which is now expected to provide 40 million tonnes for feed, 2.7 million more than forecast last month.

At the same time, it revised down total cereal use in feed to reflect lower expected pork, poultry and milk production.

Projected soft wheat exports in 2022/23 were kept unchanged at 36 million tonnes.

In oilseeds, the Commission revised up estimated rapeseed production in 2022/23 by 0.5 million tonnes to 19.3 million, and increased expected sunflower seed output by 0.4 million tonnes to 10.3 million. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Frances Kerry)

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