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Coceral lifts bar on EU wheat prospects, citing high hopes for France

Coceral raised the bar on forecasts for the European Union soft wheat harvest this year - flagging hopes of a particularly strong output recovery in France, where official data showed winter crop in good health.

The Brussels-based industry group, in its first forecasts for EU grains production in 2017-18, pegged the soft wheat harvest the world's biggest at 144.8m tonnes, a rise of 9.7m tonnes year on year.

The forecast is above the 143.9m tonne harvest forecast by Strategie Grains, and the 143.0m-tonne result that the European Commission has pencilled in.

'Strong recovery'

Coceral was notably upbeat on prospects for a recovery in output in France, the EU's top wheat producer, where the crop last year was "heavily affected by strong rains in June".

Forecasts for EU soft wheat output and (area) for 2017

Coceral: 144.815m tonnes, (24.304m hectares)

European Commission: 143.0m tonnes, (23.8m hectares)

Strategie Grains: 143.9m tonnes, (24.1m hectares)

The group forecast a "strong recovery" in France's soft wheat harvest, by 10.7m tonnes to 38.6m tonnes, well above the 36.2m-tonne crop expected by the commission.

The forecasts came as data from FranceAgriMer, the official French crop bureau, showed the domestic soft wheat crop rated an elevated 91% in "good" or "excellent" condition, if down 1 point week on week.

The figure was also 1 point below the year-ago figure, when the crop was also in strong health - ahead of France's devastating June rains.

Barley divergence

By contrast, Coceral was relatively cautious on prospects for the harvest in Germany, the EU's second-ranked grower, seeing it at 25.1m tonnes - in line with a forecast last week from farm co-operatives group Deutscher Raiffeisenverband (DRV), but 800,000 tonnes below Brussels' expectations.

Forecasts for EU barley output and (area) for 2017

Coceral: 59.550m tonnes, (12.322m hectares)

European Commission: 62.7m tonnes, (12.5m hectares)

Strategie Grains: 61.4m tonnes, (12.4m hectares)

And the group forecast the UK harvest at 14.4m tonnes, some 100,000 tonnes below the commission's expectations, and representing only a marginal improvement year on year, in line with a small increase in seedings.

On barley too, Coceral was more cautious, seeing output flat at 59.6m tonnes - with a rise of some 800,000 tonnes to 28.9m tonnes in spring barley production offset by an easing in the winter crop harvest.

Strategie Grains sees EU barley output this year at 61.4m tonnes, with the commission forecasting the figure at 62.7m hectares.

Coceral's projection was based on an estimate of overall barley sowings falling some 100,000 hectares year on year to 12.3m hectares, as opposed to Strategie Grains's expectation of stable area, and a Brussels forecast of a 200,000-hectare increase.

Rapeseed prospects

Among oilseeds, Coceral was also relatively downbeat on prospects for EU rapeseed output, seeing it at 21.0m tonnes, a rise of 427,000 tonnes year on year on its estimates.

Forecasts for EU rapeseed output and (area) for 2017

Coceral: 20.956m tonnes, (6.427m hectares)

European Commission: 22.1m tonnes, (6.62m hectares)

Strategie Grains: 21.58m tonnes, (6.47m hectares)

Strategie Grains has forecast a more marked recovery, to 21.6m tonnes, based on a higher estimate for yield as well as area.

The commission forecasts the bloc's rapeseed harvest hitting 22.1m tonnes, based on an area of 6.62m hectares, some 200,000 hectares more than Coceral is counting on.

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