Early estimates for the European Union wheat harvest, the
world's biggest, are building a consensus around an expectation of the third
biggest output ever, lifted by a rise in sowings at the expense of barley.
The European Commission, in its first estimates for the bloc's
wheat crop this year, pegged it at 144.5m tonnes, including 8.67m tonnes of
durum, the type used in making pasta.
The figure, up from 143.9m tonnes last year on commission estimates, was in line with the 145.1m tonnes forecast by
Strategie Grains, and the 143.0m tonnes expected by the International Grains
And it would be the best result since the record 152m-tonne
crop achieved six years ago, a result which sent stocks soaring 50% and
contributed to a decline in Paris wheat futures to E122.25 a tonne in December
However, the commission forecast a more modest rise in EU
wheat inventories over 2014-15, by 2.4m tonnes to 11.8m tonnes, a figure which remains
low by historical standards.
Although exports will fall by some 3.7m tonnes they will -
at 23.3m tonnes including durum - prove strong by historical standards, beating
the 10-year average of 17.7m tonnes.
And wheat consumption by livestock producers will rise by nearly
5m tonnes, in part thanks to some displacement of barley and corn use, but also
thanks to a growing needs, encouraged by the quest by dairy producers to
exploit elevated milk prices.
"The number of dairy cows in the EU is growing," the
commission said, noting that high milk prices had triggered "rise in heifer
retention and a decline in cow culling".
'Good crop emergence'
The commission said that its forecast for EU wheat production
factored in mild and humid conditions which had "allowed good crop emergence
"No extreme frost event was recorded except in Slovenia."
However, it cautioned that the risk of frost damage to crops
remained, given that even in areas with a protective snow blanket, cover was "currently
Some western parts of the bloc, such as Ireland and the UK,
had also received "excessive" rains which may prompt some replanting, or have
shifted farmers to spring-sown crops.