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EU maize yield forecast cut again, sowing seen favourable

PARIS, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The European Union's crop monitoring service MARS on Monday reduced further its forecast for this year's drought-affected EU maize harvest but pointed to mostly favourable sowing conditions for winter cereals.

The MARS report forecast the average yield in this year's EU grain maize crop was expected at 6.34 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) from 6.39 t/ha expected in September.

The downward revision, which followed a steeper cut last month, put MARS' yield forecast 20% below last year's level and 19% under the average of the previous five years.

Projected yields for sunflower seed and soybeans were also trimmed and were now seen at 16% and 18%, respectively, below their five-year averages, MARS said in its monthly report.

"As the season comes to an end, the impact of the dry summer is ... becoming clearer," MARS said.

So-called summer crops like maize endured historic drought and extreme heat in Europe during key growth stages, in contrast to winter crops that were harvested before suffering significant drought damage.

Grain maize production was also being curbed by some farmers choosing to cut crop as green maize, or fodder maize, MARS added. For fodder maize, growers chop up the whole plant for on-farm use, rather than separating the grain.

Heavy rain since late summer has delayed maize harvesting in eastern EU countries like Romania and Hungary without benefiting crops that were already mature, MARS said.

For sugar beet, the monitor kept unchanged its forecast of this year's EU yield at 73.2 t/ha, 2% lower than the five-year mean.

Widespread rainfall has helped autumn sowing of winter cereals like wheat by restoring soil moisture, while there was still a long window for sowing in zones like northwest Italy and southern Spain facing persisting dryness, the crop monitor said.

The earlier rapeseed sowing campaign was mixed, with some countries like Germany and Poland seeing crop planted outside the optimal period due to delays caused by drought and then frequent showers, it added.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Jan Harvey and Lisa Shumaker)

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