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EU grain storage has improved but critical bottlenecks remain

12 April 20184 min reading

The storage capacity for cereals, oilseed complex and protein crops in the EU has risen to 359 million tonnes since 2005, but there are still bottlenecks in the system, mainly related to capacity issues, that could impact the sector as a whole. These are the main findings of a study on grain storage in the European Union, commissioned by the European Commission’s agriculture and rural development department.

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The current total storage capacity for cereals, oilseed complex and protein crops (COP) in the EU28 was quantified at around 359 million tonnes, up 20% from around 300 million tonnes in 2005, according to a study on grain storage. This has led to improved storage management across the EU, with all 28 member states having increased their storage capacity over 10-year period. There is still a risk of a shortage of storage capacity in some number of member states, where additional investment is needed, however.

FRANCE HAS THE GREATEST STORAGE CAPACITY Over the same period, EU production of COP crops increased by 11%, from around 312 million tons to around 346 million tonnes. The increase in storage capacity was therefore greater than the increase in production, as some Member States fully or partially addressed the storage capacity shortages that they faced in 2005. France is by far the Member State with the greatest storage capacity (around 91 million tons in 2015), followed by Germany (48 million tons) and Spain (30 million tons). Among the Eastern EU Member States, Poland (24 million tonnes), Romania (23 million tons) and Hungary (20 million tons) also stand out.

MAJOR CAPACITY INCREASES IN EASTERN EUROPE All 28 Member States increased their storage capacity over the observed period, albeit to a different extent. With the only exception of Spain (which recorded a 33% increase), all the major increases occurred in Eastern EU: Bulgaria more than doubled its storage capacity, Poland increased it by around 57%, Latvia by 52%. Increases above 40% were also recorded in Greece, Sweden and Romania. The study identified four main transport corridors for cereals, oilseed complex and protein crops in Europe: Baltic-Adriatic, North-Sea Baltic, Rhine-Alpine and Rhine-Danube. In addition it found that most of long-distance tonnage is covered by inland waterways and railways, while short-distances are mainly covered by truck transportation. However for all four transport corridors and all three transportation modes, bottlenecks emerged. For example, capacity issues came up on the German and Austrian transportation network, in particular with regard to the cross-border railway connections. With around 4 million tonnes of grains worth over €1 billion moving in the EU every week, a well-functioning storage and logistic system is of great importance to ensure that the demands of the EU market are met at a competitive price. Bottlenecks can lead to supply shortfalls and increased price volatility.

WHICH COUNTRIES FACE THE MOST SERIOUS POTENTIAL SHORTAGES The study provides a comprehensive overview and mapping of the storage and logistic situation for the grains in the EU. It maps storage facilities for all member states and at all levels of the supply chain. And also shows the evolution of storage capacities and logistical infrastructure over the last 10 years. According to the report, the most serious potential shortages of storage capacity (i.e. the situations where total capacity falls short of both the maximum and the minimum need) affect four Member States: Germany, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom. The shortages which emerged for Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden seem less critical, as the extent of the capacity gap to cover is smaller. In other eight Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain), total storage capacity falls short of the maximum storage need only.

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