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UPDATE 1-Hungary could become net maize importer after drought hits crop -govt

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BUDAPEST, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Hungary, a major grains producer, could end up being a net maize importer in the current season after this year's drought reduced yields, the Agriculture Ministry told Reuters.

It said the 2022 maize crop was seen at about 3 million tonnes compared with 7 million to 9 million tonnes harvested under normal circumstances. Hungary usually exports some 3 million to 4 million tonnes, with minimal imports.

"The 2022/23 economic year has presented Europe and Hungary with an extremely difficult situation in the grains market as a result of the severe drought," the ministry said in an emailed reply.

"Yields of the 2022 summer harvest (wheat, barley, rapeseed, rye, oat) had already fallen below average and the effects of the drought manifest even more drastically in the autumn harvest."

The central European country had harvested 3.9 million tonnes of autumn wheat and 1.4 million tonnes of barley as the summer harvest season ended earlier than usual due to this year's heat and drought.

The impact of the drought has contributed to a rise in Hungarian inflation to two-decade highs. The increasing need to import grains could put more pressure on Hungary's finances already under pressure from a surge in energy import bills and slowing exports.

Earlier this week, industry members said Hungary had imported about 1 million tonnes of maize, nearly a quarter of its annual needs in the past 12 months, mostly from neighbouring Ukraine. (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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