Crop monitors lift hopes for EU, Ukraine harvests

European Union crop monitors raised prospects for the bloc's own crops, citing a "predominantly positive" yield outlook, and for Ukraine too, where a "particularly rainy" May had eased dryness concerns.

The EU's Mars unit flagged weather setbacks in some countries, such as an early-month heatwave in France, where temperatures hit a record in eastern areas, exacerbating somewhat the impact of below-average soil moisture levels.

Mars flagged a "contrast between the western half of the country, where soil moisture is high and the risk of pest pressure is still great, and the eastern half which is dry and where yields could be impacted".

And it trimmed its forecast for the soft wheat yield in France, the bloc's top producer by 0.11 tonnes per hectare to 7.36 tonnes per hectare, putting a year-on-year decline on the cards.

The yield estimate for the UK, the third-ranked producer, was also downgraded, by 0.14 tonnes per hectare to 8.05 tonnes per hectare, with Mars flagging a "high risk of pests and diseases".

However, with prospects improved for countries such as Germany, which enjoyed "good conditions for the grain-filling period", the estimate for the EU soft wheat yield overall was nudged higher to 5.30 tonnes per hectare, in line with last year's above-average result.

'Drastic reduction of soil moisture'

In rapeseed, the yield forecast was lifted by 0.9 tonnes per hectare to 3.21 tonnes per hectare, with prospects "positive for all major EU producers, except the Czech Republic".

The upgrade is the latest in a series for EU rapeseed, with the US Department of Agriculture last week lifting its forecast to a record 22.0m tonnes, and traders at one major European commodities house noting that "many analysts are now predicting an EU crop of over 23m tonnes".

Spring barley was one of the few crops in which Mars cut expectations, by 0.14 tonnes per hectare to a below-average 3.90 tonnes per hectare, citing dryness in Spain, a major producer.

Eastern and southern parts of Spain especially had seen a "drastic reduction of soil moisture", thanks to hot and dry weather since April which had been most "relevant for spring barley, constrained by low soil moisture during the critical grain-filling phase".

'Substantial rainfall'

However Mars, which also monitors regions around the EU, saved particularly big upgrades for crops in Ukraine, where "substantial rainfall improved soil conditions".

It lifted its expectations for the wheat harvest by 0.30 tonnes per hectare to 3.29 tonnes per hectare; for barley by 0.2 tonnes per hectare to 2.45 tonnes per hectare; and for corn by 0.3 tonnes per hectare to 5.73 tonnes per hectare.

"May was particularly rainy, while winter cereals were reaching the grain-filling stage and spring cereals the flowering stage," Mars said, contrasting the conditions with the dryness in April.

"Rainfall was largely above average in almost all regions, even reaching twice the average in central regions."

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