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EU set for big winter barley crop after 2018 disaster


Europe is facing a strong rise in its 2019 winter barley harvest following massive drought damage a year before, bringing improved supplies for farmers.


Winter barley, used for animal feed, suffered massive damage from a heatwave last summer, forcing Europe to make hefty imports of feed wheat and corn.


"With normal weather in June and July the EU is set for a winter barley recovery, with much better feed supplies for farmers and export supplies," one trader said.


French analyst Strategie Grains forecasts winter barley production in the European Union will rise 15% on the year to 30.86m tonnes.


The EU’s top producer France is on course for a larger harvest than last year, but adverse weather including heavy rain this month could curb yields.


France’s farm ministry estimates the 2019 winter barley crop at 8.5m tonnes, up 4.6% from last year.


Some forecasters say recent heavy rain could harm some maturing cereal crops.


"These damp conditions could increase the incidence of parasites (and) disease during the end of the growth cycle and could negatively impact grain fill," Strategie Grains said.


Harvesting had yet to begin, it said. Winter barley harvesting in France usually starts in June.


In Germany, repeated rain in the past month means a big rise in this year’s harvest is expected following last year’s disastrous crop.


Germany’s crop will jump 35.5% on last year’s drought-reduced harvest to 9.99m tonnes, according to its association of farm cooperatives (DRV).


"The heavy rain in the past few weeks removed fears that the dry spring could again endanger Germany’s harvest, but now winter barley is looking great," one German analyst said.


"Growth is completed and barley is now ready for ripening and harvesting."


Harvesting will start in the coming days in the south and south-west, traditionally the first areas to begin. If weather is sunny, work will expand to other areas in the second half of June.


The UK winter barley crop is expected to rise by almost 20% to around 3.1m tonnes, helped by an expanded planted area, said David Eudall of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.


Recent rain ensured crops have plenty of moisture.


"We have gone in a very short space of time from having not enough moisture to having more than enough," said Jack Watts, chief combinable crops advisor at the National Farmers Union.


"We need some sunshine now to build yields."


Watts said the harvest in Britain was expected to start around 20-25 July, depending on the weather.


Good weather in Poland also means a crop recovery is expected.


"We expect an early start to winter barley harvesting, probably early July in the south of the country if the weather stays like this," said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.


Poland’s winter barley is likely to rise 7% on the year to about 850,000 tonnes, Sabaranski said.

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