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UPDATE 2-EU cuts maize crop forecast, raises import outlook again

(Adds details, oilseed crops)

By Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Thursday reduced its forecast for the drought-hit maize harvest in the European Union to a new 15-year low while increasing again its outlook for EU maize imports.

In monthly grain supply and demand data, the Commission lowered its projection for EU usable production of maize (corn) in 2022/23 to 54.9 million tonnes from 55.5 million a month ago.

The revision was smaller than steep cuts made by the Commission in recent months but confirmed its expectation that the bloc was set for its lowest maize output since 2007.

Maize crops endured a drought and heatwaves in Europe during their crucial summer growth period.

The Commission did not refer to weather but said the latest reduction to its EU maize crop estimate mainly reflected lower area or yield projections for Spain, France and Poland.

The successive downward revisions to the Commission's harvest forecast have slashed expected production from 71.7 million tonnes projected in late June, which was near a seven-year high of 72.9 million last season.

Expected EU maize imports in the 2022/23 season were increased to 22.0 million tonnes from 21.0 million a month ago, maintaining the prospect of the biggest imports in four years.

For soft wheat, the EU's most-produced cereal, estimated usable production for 2022/23 was increased slightly, to 127.2 million tonnes from 127.0 million forecast a month ago.

The volume remained below last season's, despite a 1 million tonne downward revision that put estimated 2021/22 output at 129.1 million tonnes.

Forecast soft wheat stocks at the end of 2022/23 were cut to 13.7 million tonnes from 14.5 million, as the revision to last year's crop and an increase to projected animal feed demand outweighed the upward adjustment to this year's crop and a rise in expected imports.

Projected 2022/23 soft wheat exports were kept at 36.0 million tonnes.

In oilseeds, the Commission revised up rapeseed production in 2022/23 by 0.3 million tonnes to 19.6 million, a five-year high, but trimmed expected sunflower seed output by 0.3 10.0 million. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by David Evans)

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