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French wheat harvest to fall by 21%, after weather double whammy

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France’s wheat harvest will tumble by 21% year on year, with its rapeseed crop falling below even last year’s level to the lowest in at least a decade, officials said, citing the blow from weather extremes.

 

France’s farm ministry, in its first forecast for domestic harvests this year, pegged the country’s soft wheat crop – the European Union’s biggest - at 31.31m tonnes, a drop of 8.24m tonnes year on year.

 

That would be “the weakest harvest since 2004, after that of 2016”, when output fell to 27.56m tonnes, the ministry said.

 

The forecast reflected a growing season “marked by difficulties of sowing in the autumn due to abundant precipitation which saturated the soils, and by spring drought.

 

“These conditions particularly impacted soft wheat.”

 

‘In sharp decline’

The harvest forecast reflected in part a sowings estimate downgraded by 170,000 hectares to 4.41m hectares, taking to 593,000 hectares the decline expected year on year.

 

“Soft wheat area is in sharp decline, reaching its lowest level since 2003.”

 

Yield was pegged at 7.11 tonnes per hectare, a drop of 0.80 tonnes per hectare year on year - and lowest in recent history bar the 5.37 tonnes per hectare recorded in 2016 – although the ministry flagged “strong variations” between expectations for different areas, in particular between those with deep and shallower soils.

 

For Brittany in the north west, for instance, the soft wheat yield was pegged at 7.85 tonnes per hectare, but with Occitanie in the south seeing a particularly sharp drop year on year, to 4.88 tonnes per hectare.

 

Rapeseed decline

The ministry’s soft wheat harvest forecast was below the 32.02m tonnes expected by industry group Coceral, and – including 1.33m tonnes of durum – below too the US Department of Agriculture’s estimate of a 33.80m-tonne French all-wheat crop this year.

 

The estimate was a little above a European Commission estimate of 30.3m tonnes.

 

For rapeseed the ministry was markedly downbeat, seeing a harvest of 3.37m tonnes, below Coceral’s 3.64m-tonne estimate, and the 3.47m tonnes expected by the commission.

 

It would allow fall below last year’s 3.50m-tonne crop to represent the smallest in at least a decade.

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