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Buoyant prices lift French rapeseed sowings, with wheat area a little higher too

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Winter rapeseed sowings in France recovered sharply, encouraged by higher prices, with a small rise in wheat plantings too – at the expense of barley, seedings of which have fallen to a four-year low.


France’s farm ministry, in its first forecasts for sowings ahead of the 2018 harvest, pegged rapeseed area at 1.54m hectares – a 9.5% rebound from levels depressed last year by dryness during the planting window, which is earlier for the oilseed than for the major winter cereals.


“The rise in rapeseed prices driven by sustained global demand could explain this increase in area,” the ministry said.


Paris rapeseed futures held at relatively high levels compared with soft wheat during the late-summer sowings period.


They touched a six-month high, on a spot contract basis, of E388.00 a tonne a month ago before beginning a decline attributed to a larger-than-expected Canadian harvest of rapeseed variant canola, and to a recovery in imports of Argentine biodiesel after a lowering in import taxes.


Most rapeseed in the EU is converted, via rapeseed oil, into biodiesel.


Wheat vs barley


For soft wheat, of which France is also the EU’s top producer, winter seedings ahead of the 2018 harvest have also risen, although by a modest 10,000 hectares to 5.03m hectares.


The gains have come in part at the expense of barley, of which winter seedings were pegged at 1.36m hectares, a drop of 4.6% year on year, and the smallest area since that ahead of the 2014 harvest.


Although barley prices have closed their discount to those of soft wheat, to about $9 a tonne at the Rouen export market according to the AHDB bureau, the discount stood at some $20 a tonne in the later summer, when farmers were beginning to enact planting strategies.


‘In good condition’


The data tally with ideas from other commentators, with the International Grains Council, for instance, reporting that for rapeseed “the area seeded in France is expected to rise year on year, with fields reportedly in good condition ahead of winter dormancy”.


For wheat, commentators have reported expectations of EU area for the 2018 harvest broadly flat, with some headway in the likes of France offsetting declines in Germany and Poland, where wet weather hampered autumn fieldwork.


FranceAgriMer, the official French crop bureau, on December reported 96% of the French soft wheat crop in “good” or “excellent” condition, up 2 points year on year.

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