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France braces for poor 2021 rapeseed harvest - even as 2020 crop downgraded

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Expectations are growing over another disappointing rapeseed harvest in France in 2021, even as officials cut their estimate further for this year’s crop - as they took above 10.0m tonnes their estimate for the wheat production decline too.

 

Agritel noted “strong concerns” over prospects for the newly-planted French rapeseed, which will be harvested next year, saying that a “very strong” moisture shortage had led to mixed success in crop emergence after sowing.

 

“Area could be less than 1m hectares in view of the persisting dryness,” the analysis group said.

 

Official data show rapeseed area for the newly completed 2020 harvest at 1.12m hectares - in line with that the year before, below the 1.62m hectares recorded for 2018, the last season to enjoy a favourable planting campaign.

 

In some other parts of Europe too, “rapeseed is raising a lot of concerns with sowings that have either not been carried out or are suffering from a water deficit”, Agritel added.

 

‘Hampered due to dry soil’

While the dryness is seen as testing sowings of winter cereals for 2021 harvests too, the situation is more serious for rapeseed given its short and early planting window.

 

On Monday, European Commission’s Mars agri-meteorology bureau, said that in France “winter rapeseed sowing has been hampered due to dry topsoils.

 

“Sowing is already delayed and the area sown to rapeseed is expected to be similar to (or even lower than) the rapeseed areas [planted] in 2018 and 2019.

 

“Weather conditions since the beginning of August tended to reinforce the impacts of the dry conditions already observed since the beginning of July.”

 

Ukraine vs UK

In some other EU countries too, such as Bulgaria and Poland, Mars noted some setback to rapeseed sowings from dryness, as well as in Ukraine, a major exporter of the oilseed to the bloc.

 

In Ukraine, “some concerns were raised about the start of the next cropping season for winter rapeseed sowings and emergence,” Mars said.

 

While “some rain has been observed lately, helping to improve sowing conditions… the establishment of rapeseed will nevertheless depend on the weather in the coming weeks”.

 

However, in Germany, which vies with France to be the EU’s top rapeseed grower, “rainfall amounts were deemed satisfactory for rapeseed sowing”, with moisture prospects promising for the likes of Hungary and Ireland too, as well as the UK.

 

Harvest downgrades

The concerns came even as France’s farm ministry reduced its estimate for the country’s 2020 rapeseed harvest by 59,000 tonnes to 3.27m tonnes, after a growing season marred by “abundant rains during autumn sowings and a marked drought in spring”.

 

The yield forecast was trimmed to 2.93 tonnes per hectare, “the lowest level since 2007”.

 

For soft wheat, the ministry cut its harvest estimate by 231,000 tonnes to 29.71m tonnes - taking above 10.0m tonnes the decline from the 2019 result.

 

It noted a drop in yields in “almost all regions”, led by a 56% slump recorded in the south west region of Aquitaine.

 

‘Drought and yellowing’

The corn and sunflower harvests received marginal downgrades, but remained comfortably above year-ago levels, reflecting the boost to sowings after the poor autumn planting period left extra fields available for spring crops.

 

And, in its first forecast for the country’s 2020 sugar beet production, it pegged output at 32.20m tonnes, a drop of 5.84m tonnes year on year, on lower area and yield estimates.

 

“This year beet has suffered greatly from drought and yellowing, the result of unfavourable weather conditions for its development.”

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