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EU rapeseed sowings for 2021 harvest 'may beat early forecasts'

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The worst may be over for the European Union’s rapeseed production slump, with reports of “revived interest” in the oilseed in the north of the bloc, encouraged by some strong results from the 2019 harvest.

 

“Early indications point to larger-than-expected rapeseed plantings this year,” to be harvested in 2021, Oil World said.

 

“Partly excellent yields, primarily in the Baltics and in Germany, and comparatively high prices have reportedly revived interest in rapeseed cultivation in northern European countries.”

 

The comments follow a marked decline in rapeseed’s popularity in the bloc, particularly since 2018, when the European Commission banned use of nicotinoid insecticides which growers had used to control cabbage stem flea beetle, a series pest of brassica plants.

 

The European Commission estimates rapeseed production this year in the EU, excluding the UK, at 15.40m tonnes, down 22% since 2017. Oil World pegs the harvest including the UK at 16.7m-16.8m tonnes.

 

‘Further recovery’

Oil World, based in Hamburg, said that in Germany, rapeseed sowings “have been expanded in recent weeks and are anticipated to increase to 1.0m-1.1m hectares, a three-year high.

 

“Weather permitting, a further recovery of the German rapeseed crop can thus be expected in 2021,” after a 700,000-tonne improvement year on year to 3.5m tonnes in the country’s 2020 harvest.

 

Indeed, a 12% increase in yields from 2019 had been one factor encouraging German growers to boost sowings, with buoyant prices also a factor.

 

“Rapeseed prices have been comparatively high recently and even during harvesting, partly because of tight physical supplies of domestically produced rapeseed and insufficient imports.”

 

Furthermore, “rotation requirements now favour rapeseed on many farms, considering that winter wheat was planted at many locations in two or three consecutive years”, the influential analysis group said.

 

‘Already penalised’

However, one test to EU rapeseed hopes for 2020 has emerged in terms of dryness in some countries – notably in France, which has historically vied with Germany to be the EU’s top rapeseed producer.

 

The lack of rain which has been reflected in a deterioration in official ratings of the French corn crop are viewed as having undermined prospects for sowings of rapeseed, which has an early planting window, and is typically seeded straight after summer harvests of the likes of wheat.

 

“The continuing water deficit in France is becoming worrying, especially for future sowings,” said Agritel.

 

“Rapeseed is already penalised.”

 

In the UK, meanwhile, the late, rain-delayed running of the 2020 grains harvest in many areas is seen as curtailing prospects for timely sowings of a follow-on rapeseed crop.

 

Import needs

The reduction in the EU’s own rapeseed production in recent seasons has boosted its import requirements for the oilseed, used largely in making biodiesel.

 

The commission estimates the bloc’s imports in 2019-20 at a record 6.30m tonnes (excluding the UK), with those for this season seen at 5.50m tonnes.

 

Oil World flagged the knock-on effects of inventory data on Friday from Canada, the top producer and exporter of rapeseed variant canola, showing end-2019-20 stocks at 2.7m tonnes, down one-third year on year.

 

One implication of the data was that Canada’s canola supplies “will thus decline in 2020-21 even with a somewhat larger crop.

 

“This makes it more difficult for European crushers to satisfy this season’s larger rapeseed import requirements.”

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