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Strat Grains warns on quality of big EU wheat crop

Strategie Grains hiked its estimate for the European Union wheat harvest to within a whisper of a record high, but warned that rain damage meant that supplies fit for milling would fall by some 11m tonnes.

The influential analysis group hiked by 3.6m tonnes to 144.1m tonnes its forecast for the bloc's soft wheat harvest, saying that yields are proving "exceptional in many EU countries this year".

Adding in 7.2m tonnes of durum, used in making durum, the EU's total wheat crop will hit 151.3m tonnes, up nearly 8m tonnes year on year.

On US Department of Agriculture estimates, the bloc's record crop was reaped six years ago at 151.9m tonnes, factoring in Croatia, which actually only joined the EU last year.

'Major problems'

However, Strategie Grains cautioned of a drop in milling wheat output despite the large harvest, thanks to the rains which, on ripe crops, encourage sprouting and reduce milling specifications.

"Due to the heavy rainfall that disrupted the harvests, grain quality has suffered in some countries and especially in France where major problems are reported," the Paris-based group said.

The setbacks - reflected mainly in Hagberg falling numbers, a measure of sprouting and an important milling specification - "have significantly reduced the percentage of milling wheat produced".

Some commentators believe that only about one-third of the French crop, the EU's biggests, boasts a Hagberg number of the 225 seconds required by many importers.

Export estimate

Strategie Grains estimated at 59% the proportion of EU soft wheat making milling grade, down from a previous forecast of 67% and a figure of 71% achieved last year.

The data suggest milling wheat supplies from this harvest of about 85m tonnes, down from 96m tonnes last year.

The estimate for EU soft wheat exports was cut by 900,000 tonnes to 23.7m tonnes, with a downgrade of nearly 3m tonnes for the forecast for French volumes offset in part by upgrades to expectations for German and Polish shipments.

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