EU wheat, rapeseed hopes get further boosts

The European Union underlined the improving prospects for Europe's harvest, as combines are being prepared to roll, by raising its forecast for soft wheat production by 1.6m tonnes, with the rapeseed forecast increased too.

The European Commission lifted to 137.5m tonnes, from 135.9m tonnes, its estimate for soft wheat output in the bloc, the top producer of the grain.

That would be narrowly the EU's third biggest harvest ever, counting in Cyrus in historic data, behind the record six years ago, and represent a 3.1m-tonne increase year on year.

The upgrade reflected bigger estimates for both area, at a bumper 23.9m hectares, and yield, pegged at 5.8 tonnes per hectare.

Wheat area has been supported by, besides a strong level of autumn plantings, a mild winter which left only minimal areas reseeded with spring crops, such as corn or barley.

'Almost optimal weather'

The upgrade takes the commission above many other commentators in hopes for the EU crop, with Strategie Grains pegging the crop at 137.4m tonnes, and the International Grains Council putting it at 137.3m tonnes.

And, with the commission couching its forecast in terms of "usable production", its thinking is often more conservative than those of private commentators. Strategie Grains, for instance, puts last year's soft wheat harvest at 135.1m tonnes, some 700,000 tonnes above Brussels' figure.

The commission forecast for the overall wheat harvest, including the durum variety used to make pasta, of 144.9m tonnes was in line with the US Department of Agriculture estimate.

Growing weather has proved mostly benign even after the mild winter, bringing rains to central and eastern areas where dryness was a concern earlier in 2014.

Trading house Toepfer last week raised its forecast for Germany's wheat harvest, the EU's second biggest, by 820,000 tonnes to 24.77m tonnes, saying that recent weather has been "almost optimal", with a mix of rain and warm temperatures.

In top grower France, 75% of soft wheat is rated "good" or "excellent" by FranceAgriMer officials, up from 67% a year ago.

Rapeseed prospects

For EU rapeseed output, the commission lifted its forecast to 21.18m tonnes, putting an increase on the cards from the 20.9m tonnes produced last year, on its data.

Even so, that was behind forecasts from some other commentators, with Strategie Grains on Monday raising its forecast by 200,000 tonnes to 21.8m tonnes, up from 21.1m tonnes last year on its estimates.

Agritel on Wednesday pegged the crop at 21.5m-22m tonnes, saying that the crop offered a "satisfactory yield outlook", and putting a potential record harvest on the cards, above the 21.6m tonnes reaped five years ago.

However, in Sweden, agricultural co-operative Lantmannen said that the EU ban on neonicotinoid insecticides had "led to lower sales of seed for spring rape".

Harvest looms

Agritel added that "first harvests could start in France next week as temperatures are expected to be high.

"Nevertheless, thunderstorms could disrupt fieldwork."

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