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Strat Grains cuts hopes for EU wheat, barley harvests

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The process of putting numbers on Europe's crop production losses to cold and dry weather began in earnest as Strategie Grains cuts its grains harvest forecasts, with German prospects getting a separate downgrade by the DRV too.

Strategie Grains cut its forecasts for the European Union harvests of all major grains, after marked frosts in major growing countries such as France, Germany and Poland in April, when winter crops, having emerged from dormancy, are more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

Dryness too had curtailed yield prospects in France, the UK and Belgium, while proving a significant setback in Spain.

The influential analysis group cut its estimate for the overall EU grains harvest by 3.6m tonnes to 301.6m tonnes, which would still represent a rise of 4.5m tonnes year on year, but take it further behind 2015's bumper 309.8m-tonne crop.

Wheat, barley downgrades

The downgrade reflected in part a 1.1m-tonne cut to 142.7m tonnes in the estimate for the EU soft wheat harvest, the world's biggest, although Strategie Grains underlined that this forecast was open yet to revision.

"That figure could change… because the impact of the drought and cold spells the crops were subjected to is still difficult to assess accurately," the group said, while also trimming expectations for EU soft wheat exports in 2017-18 by 200,000 tonnes to 26.0m tonnes.

The biggest harvest downgrade came to the estimate for barley output, which was reduced by 1.7m tonnes to a multi-year low of 59.6m tonnes.

A figure at this level from the world's top barley grower, with the EU responsible for some 40% of global output, underlines the potential for a squeeze on global inventories, which the US Department of Agriculture sees ending 2017-18 at a 34-year low.

Strategie Grains made smaller reductions to its forecasts for EU output of corn, downgraded by 300,000 tonnes to 60.1m tonnes, and of durum wheat, for which the harvest estimate was also reduce by 300,000 tonnes, to 8.6m tonnes.

'Still too dry'

Separately, Deutsche Raiffeisenverband (DRV), the German association of farm co-operatives, cut its forecasts for the domestic grains harvest by 1.24m tonnes to 45.45m tonnes – taking below 190,000 tonnes the forecast rise in output above last year's "disappointing" result.

The downgrade reflected a 100,000-hectare cut to 6.26m hectares in sowings, besides some reduction in yield expectations.

While rains in recent weeks had provided some comfort, "it is still too dry in many regions", the DRV said.

Meanwhile, "cool weather with considerable night frosts" has setbacks crops after a spell of good weather in the run-up to Easter, besides delaying sowings of corn, for which the association slashed its forecast for Germany's harvest by 744,000 tonnes to 3.74m tonnes.

Wheat, rapeseed forecasts

Germany's wheat harvest, the European Union's second biggest, was pegged at 24.99m tonnes, a downgrade of 260,000 tonnes on last month's forecast, but still up 400,000 tonnes year on year.

And the DRV also downgraded its forecast for the country's rapeseed crop, to 4.7m tonnes, and a figure not included in the overall grains data.

"This result only slightly exceeds the disappointing previous year's figure of 4.6m tonnes.

"Rapeseed has suffered from night frosts in various regions," the association said, adding that harvest results were "still dependent" on crops gaining adequate rainfall.

By Mike Verdin

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