Estimates are growing for the French soft wheat harvest, the European Union’s biggest, even as expectations for the second-ranked German crop, where farmers said that hot weather had inflicted “major losses” in some areas.
Strategie Grains, for the second time this month, raised its forecast for France’s ongoing soft wheat harvest to 38.98m tonnes, compared with a previous figure of 38.2m tonnes, which had already been upgraded from a July 11 estimate of 37m tonnes.
The latest revision – which took the estimate within 2.0m tonnes of 2015’s record 40.95m-tonne crop – reflected an upgraded yield figure, based on crop analysis showing kernel weights higher than had been thought.
The influential analysis group also estimated that 89% of the crop would meet milling specifications, a proportion up 2 points year on year.
‘Particularly good yields’
The upgrade follows an estimate on Tuesday from rival Agritel pegging the harvest at 39.17m tonnes, based on a yield figure, at 7.82 tonnes per hectare, even higher than the 7.77 tonnes per hectare seen by Strategie Grains.
"Although the harvest is not fully over in the regions near the Channel, reported yields remain particularly good, completely wiping out concerns of an impact of the end-of-cycle heatwave on grain filling,” said Michel Portier, the Agritel director general.
Agritel also noted the “good quality” of the crop, “as much on the specific weight as on the protein side”.
Last week, grain merchant Soufflet pegged the crop at 38m-39m tonnes, also above the French agriculture ministry’s estimate of 36.96m tonnes.
‘Reduced the yield potential’
By contrast, separately on Wednesday, farmers’ association Deutsche Bauernverban reduced its estimate for German production of winter wheat - the vast majority of the country’s wheat harvest - to “more than 22m tonnes”, from a figure of 24.1m tonnes revealed on July 3.
The downgrade “is due to the heat waves, which have reduced the yield potential” for wheat, the DBV said.
Joachim Rukwied, the association’s president, said that while “on the whole” results have improved from the “bad” levels of last year, “farms in drought-affected regions are having once again to cope with major losses”.
The DBV reported an average yield of “only” 7.4 tonnes per hectare, below the 2013-17 average of 8.1 tonnes per hectare.
The association also lowered its estimate of the German winter rapeseed harvest, to 2.8m tonnes from an early-July forecast of 3.06m tonnes.
“The effects of drought on winter rape are particularly clear,” DBV said, highlighting first a dent to sowings last autumn, with acreage seen falling 34% to 887,000 hectares, following by a setback to growing conditions.
“Difficult… conditions have caused yields to collapse from the long-term average of 3.8 tonnes per hectare to 3.2 tonnes per hectare.”
The industry group, flagging a “tense” situation in Germany’s fodder market, also highlighted a threat from drought to corn crops, and to grassland, which “it was often not possible to graze to the required extent… due to the lack of water”.
By contrast, in France, Agritel highlighted that for France, “with higher [wheat] supplies, the export market will be crucial this season”.
Indeed, the strong quality of the crop “is opening new prospects regarding potential export outlets on the international stage”.
One key initial test has been a tender this week by Algeria’s OAIC state grain agency, which on Wednesday revealed it had purchased 570,000 tonnes of milling wheat, at an average price reportedly of $215.50 a tonne including freight.
The origin was reported as optional, with traders’ initial views that part of it will be sourced from France, but with Baltic exporters and Romania also seen as potential suppliers.