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France lifts estimates for rapeseed, wheat harvests

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France lifted estimates for its wheat and rapeseed harvests, and outlined the potential for a "good" corn yield too – provided crops receive follow-up rains to timely precipitation in June and July.

France's farm ministry lifted by 567,000 tonnes to 36.78m tonnes its forecast for its near-completed soft wheat harvest, the European Union's biggest, taking it 34% above last year's rain-hurt crop.

The revision reflected an upgrade of 0.09 tonnes per hectare, to 7.15 tonnes per hectare, in the yield estimate, and the figure would have been higher were it not for results from Lorraine, in north east France, where the ministry said that "frost and a lack of rain affected the optimum development of wheat".

Rapeseed upgrade

The rapeseed harvest, meanwhile, was pegged at 5.22m tonnes, an upgrade of 557,000 tonnes, and taking production above last year's 4.74m-tonne result.

Again, the revision was down to an improved yield estimate, seen at 3.58 tonnes per hectare, an upgrade of 0.38 tonnes per hectare, and taking it 7% above the average level.

"In most of the territories, rapeseed has weathered the lack of rain, high temperatures and frost events," the ministry said.

Indeed, the harvest would have been bigger were it not for a "6% decline in area year on year", down in part to drought in August and September last year which "prevented some seedings".

Top rank

The upgrades follow reports of harvest results better than had been expected earlier in the summer, after a dry spring and June heatwave.

Indeed, both Strategie Grains and research group Terres Inovia last week raised their estimates of the French rapeseed harvest, which will now likely eclipse that in Germany to take top rank in the EU.

Germany's rapeseed crop is estimated by the Deutscher Raiffeisenverband farm co-operatives group at 4.78m tonnes.

'Rains in August are needed'

France's farm ministry, in its first estimate for the country's corn harvest this year, also forecast a rise in output, pegging production at 12.76m tonnes, up from the 11.71m tonnes reaped in 2016.

Summer crops "are developing for the time being under favourable conditions", the ministry said, noting "low" pest pressures, and that rains in June and July came "at a good time.

However, with irrigation limited in some areas, "rains in August are needed to confirm crops' good yield potential".

The French corn yield was forecast at 9.26 tonnes per hectare, up from 81.9 tonnes per hectare last year, but output will again be constrained by a lack of sowings, the ministry said.

Sugar beet is proving much more popular this year, with seedings seen up 17% at 472,000 hectares, thanks to the lifting of EU production quotas.

By Mike Verdin

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