EU's 2013 wheat crop could yet prove a bumper one

Strategie Grains downplayed setbacks to European Union winter wheat sowings, saying that the 2013 crop could yet beat the bumper 2008 harvest if conditions prove benign.

The influential analysis group said that there was still time for growers to catch up on sowings, despite the poor start in some countries, including France, the EU's top producer, where soft wheat seedings had reached 80% as of last week down from 95% the year before.

Plantings in the UK, the region's third-ranked producer, are believed to be even further behind.

However, with wheat prices still strong, farmers maintain an incentive to sow the crop even with a potential yield penalty for missing the ideal window, Strategie Grains said.

'It is not disastrous'

"People are talking about a problem because we have become used to good sowing conditions, but it is not disastrous," Strategie Grains' Laurine Simon told Reuters.

"The gross margins for wheat are decent so that will encourage farmers to sow wheat."

The group, in its first estimate for the 2013 crop, pegged it at 136m tonnes, up 13m tonnes on this year's result.

However, the harvest could reach 142m tonnes if yields reached the strong levels of 2008.

The worst case scenario currently being considered was a 121m-tone harvest, factoring in a yield on a par with 2007's weak result.

Wheat vs rapeseed

The Paris-based group, which last month estimated Europe's soft wheat area for the 2013 harvest rising by 2.5%, said that seedings prospects had received support from setbacks to oilseed sowings, besides high prices.

The forecast for oilseed area was trimmed by 200,000 hectares to 11.6m hectares, reflecting the inability of growers in countries to plant all their rapeseed, which is an earlier-sown crop than wheat.

Late wheat harvests in areas such as northern France and the UK are believed to have disrupted rapeseed plantings, by eating well into the seeding window.

Oil World last week estimated EU sowings of rapeseed, the bloc's major oilseed, at 6.55m hectares for the 2013 harvest, up from 6.13m hectares last time.

On Tuesday, the German oilseeds association, Ufop, estimated a sharp revival in the country's rapeseed area after weather-hit planting seasons in 2011 and 2010.

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