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EU grains crop to fall in 2014, despite wheat rise

The European Union grains harvest will fall next year despite a rise in wheat production to its third biggest on record, Strategie Grains said, foreseeing sharp drops in barley and rye output.

The influential consultancy, in its first forecast for EU production next year, pegged the soft wheat harvest at a five-year high of 138.0m tonnes, up 2.4% year on year.

Output next year is expected to drop by a combined 2.4m tonnes in: France and Germany, the top two producing countries; in Spain, which was blessed with unusually benign weather this year; and in the Czech Republic and Poland.

However, this was more than offset by an extra 5.8m tonnes of combined production from Sweden, Denmark and the UK, where 2013 output was dented at the latest harvest by poor autumn planting conditions last year.

Indeed, separately on Thursday, the UK downgraded its wheat harvest estimate to a 12-year low of 11.9m tonnes.

Third biggest ever

The Strategie Grains forecast factored in a rise of 3.8% to 24.1m hectares in soft wheat area, partly offset by a fall in yield of 0.1 tonnes per hectare.

At 5.7 tonnes per hectare, the 2014 yield is still forecast at a historically high level.

Factoring in durum wheat, as used in making pasta, for which area was seen stable but yield a touch down at 3.1  tonnes per hectare, the total EU wheat crop was pegged at 145.7m tonnes, up a modest 2.0% year on year.

That would nonetheless be the EU's third-biggest harvest, behind the record 151.9m-tonne crop reaped five years ago, and the 147.7m tonnes recorded in 2004-05.

Wheat vs other grains

However, the overall grains harvest will drop by 4.4m tonnes if, at 297.0m tonnes, still representing a historically high level.

The extra sowings of wheat will come at the expense of other grains including barley, corn and rye, with overall grain area falling 400,000 hectares to 57.2m hectares.

Barley production will fall by 9% to 54.5m tonnes, with particular declines in Germany, Romania and Spain, and in the UK where output was spurred this year by a leap in spring plantings on ground left vacant by the dismal autumn sowing period.

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