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EU grain sowings to rise for 2018, after three-year decline

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European Union grain sowings will, after three years of decline, rise for the 2018 harvest, Strategie Grains said, citing gains in sowings of wheat and, in particular, barley.

The influential analysis group, in its first forecast for EU grain area for 2018, pegged it at 56.1m hectares, a rise of 0.7% year on year.

The increase, which follows a drop in grain sowings of nearly 1m hectares from 2014-15 to 2017-18, reflected in part difficult conditions for planting of rapeseed, an early seeded crop, thanks to late summer dryness in some countries.

Strategie Grains last week forecast EU rapeseed plantings down 90,000 hectares year on year at 6.64m hectares, despite prices compared with grain values appearing to offer an incentive to sow more of the oilseed.

Grain area will also be supported by extra sowings in Spain and the Baltic states, where poor weather forced substantial abandonment of land for this year's harvest.

Wheat, barley vs corn

Soft wheat, of which the EU is the world's top producer, is picking up some of the extra sowings, the group said, forecasting a 0.5% increase in area, although stopping short of giving a full figure.

With EU farmers seeding 24.2m hectares of soft wheat for this year's harvest, a 0.5% rise implies an extra 120,000 hectares or so.

However, barley will see a bigger rise in area, of 1% for winter crop and 3% for spring seedings.

Corn, however, will lose out, with Strategie Grains forecasting a 1.5% drop in plantings, implying a decline of some 130,000 hectares, and taking well above 1.0m hectares the fall in EU sowings of the grain since 2013.

On wheat, the International Grains Council said two weeks ago that "amid few profitable alternatives, EU area is seen broadly unchanged year on year".

By Mike Verdin

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