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UPDATE 2-France expects drought-hit maize crop to hit 32-year low

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By Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - France, the European Union's biggest grain grower, on Tuesday reduced its forecast for this year's drought-hit maize crop by 1 million tonnes to the lowest level since 1990.

Grain maize production, excluding crop grown for seeds, was now expected at 11.33 million tonnes, 8% below the farm ministry's initial projection in August.

"A decline in planting, linked to the surge in fertiliser and gas prices, has been coupled with a sharp drop in yields caused by drought," the ministry said of maize in a crop report.

The drop in yields had affected all growing regions and was particularly severe for non-irrigated crops, it added.

Maize, harvesting of which is getting under way, is among crops to have suffered most from France's worst drought on record.

The ministry trimmed its forecast for sunflower seed production to 1.86 million tonnes from 1.92 million projected in August. That was nearly 3% below last year's crop as a drought-related hit to yields was expected to offset a jump in planting area.

Potatoes also suffered from the summer weather, with the main crop now expected to fall by more than 7% from last year to 6.14 million tonnes as a yield decline also offset increased planting, the ministry said.

However, sugar beet appeared to have withstood drought better than other spring-sown crops, with the yield expected slightly above the five-year average, the ministry said.

In a first forecast for 2022 sugar beet output, the ministry projected the crop at 33.33 million tonnes, down 3% from last year.

In revisions for already-harvested winter crops, the ministry confirmed they had mostly escaped the impact of drought and hot weather.

For soft wheat, estimated 2022 output was revised up for a second month, to 34.12 million tonnes from 33.87 million projected in August, although that would still be below last year's volume and the five-year average.

Estimated rapeseed output was also revised up again, to 4.50 million tonnes from 4.35 million last month, now 36% higher than last year and 10% above the five-year mean. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by David Goodman, Kirsten Donovan and Subhranshu Sahu)

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