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Strategie Grains flags north-south divide in EU wheat yields, quality

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Strategie Grains nudged higher its forecast for the European Union soft wheat harvest – but cautioned that the upgrade disguised mixed results, on quality as well as yield.

The Paris-based analysis group raised by 300,000 tonnes to 141.0m tonnes its estimate of this year EU soft wheat harvest, the world's biggest, taking to 5.1m tonnes the rise expected from the rain-depleted 2016 crop.

However, the upgrade masked something of a divide between results in northern and western countries, where harvest results have disappointed, while exceeding expectations further south and east.

Indeed, Strategie Grains lowered by a combined 1.8m tonnes its estimates for harvests in the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.

However, that downgrade was more than offset by a 2.1m-tonne uplift to the aggregate production estimate for crops in Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

EU divide

Yield results "are good to excellent in south east Europe but disappointing in Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia", the group said.

And this divide was reflected in quality too, for which "values are good overall in south east Europe and France.

"But quality has degraded due to the recent rains in Germany and the central European countries."

French quality

The findings tally with other reports, with FranceAgriMer earlier this week reporting that French soft crop, the EU's biggest, "will meet market needs" despite late rains which had spurred inconsistency in specific weight, a key milling measure.

In fact, some areas had reported "very high" specific weights, while protein levels were often above 12%, and Hagberg falling numbers meeting quality thresholds, the official French ag bureau said.

For summer-harvested cereals overall, "thanks to a dry and sunny climate at the time of the grain-filling period, the specific weights are very high for the most part and superior in all cases to the minimum requirements", FranceAgriMer said.

While weather tests, such as dryness and late spring frost, had "raised concerns and constrained the yield potential of all crops, they have also limited pest pressures".

'Quality degradation is increasing'

By contrast, German concerns were highlighted separately on Thursday by Agritel, which said that "rains are still delaying the harvest, and the quality degradation is increasing".

Indeed, US broker CHS Hedging flagged "rising concerns" over German wheat quality "as 1-3 inches of rain could fall in the next three days over an area that has already seen an abundance of precipitation".

Meanwhile, in the UK, CRM AgriCommodities cautioned that rains were causing "serious concerns for UK wheat quality".

"Relentless rains continue to fall on ripe crops across much of the UK as harvest stalls once again," the analysis group said.

"Quality, as a result, is deteriorating and buyers are starting to increase the premium which they are paying pay for higher-spec grains."

By Mike Verdin

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