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French grain maize crop prospects 'very gloomy', as heat cuts crop rating

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Strategie Grains termed "very gloomy" prospects for France’s corn crop, while CRM cautioned of the weakest harvest in 29 years, after official data showed a sharp decline in condition even ahead of this week’s heat.


Vincent Braak, analyst at Paris-based Strategie Grains, said the “national situation is quite bad” regarding the yield potential for French maize, citing observations of “many pollination issues” and signs of water stress on crops.


The outlook for the French maize crop “appears very gloomy for this season”, he told Agrimoney.


At CRM AgriCommodities, Ben Bodart said that “it could be the smallest French maize harvest since 1990”.

 

Crop condition falling


The comments followed the release by official crop bureau FranceAgriMer of data ranking 67% of the grain maize crop as being good or excellent as of Monday, down 8 points week on week, and well off the 80% rating published in early June.


The fall, which took the figure below the 71% rating a year before, reflected widespread decline, although in particular in the north east, where the rating for the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region tumbled by 21 points to 45% good or excellent.


Mr Braak noted the difficult growing conditions for a crop which, after seeing spring emergence hampered by wet and cold conditions, has experienced “unusually warm temperatures” since France experienced its initial heatwave, in late June.


The crop has experienced a worsening deficit this month, while a “second heatwave has aggravated the situation, mostly in northern half of France”, he said.

 

Lowest crop since 1990


At CRM AgriCommodities, Mr Bodart highlighted that Friday’s FranceAgriMer report “reflects the condition of the crop before this week’s record-breaking temperatures.


“As such, further declines lie ahead and our production forecast could be lowered below 12m tonnes - it could be the smallest French maize harvest since 1990.”


Already, he said that talks with French farmers and coops had revealed a “very concerning” situation, with some currently talking of conditions worse than in 2016, when the yield fell by 11% below trend to 8.2 tonnes per hectare.

 

East vs west

The worries over France’s crop are evident, to some extent, in other parts of Europe too, with Mr Braak saying that the “picture does not appear good” for some other westerly areas of the bloc, including Germany, Poland and Spain, and “to a lesser extent” some central European countries, such as Slovakia.

 

This is “mainly because of a lack of water availabilities and an increased topsoil evaporation because of very hot temperatures”.

 

However, crops conditions remain “excellent in Hungary and the south east of Europe, with substantial rains widespread across these major producing countries,” and temperatures “not too high” up to now.

 

‘Sounds too optimistic’

The comments were echoed by CRM AgriCommodities, which rated the corn situation in Germany, where crops are in the pollination state, “very similar” to that in France.

 

However, “the outlook is more promising in eastern Europe, ie Hungary, Romania, due to the recent wet episodes”, Mr Bodart said.

 

Still, although Romania is the EU’s top corn producer, the western setbacks raised doubts over a European Commission upgrade on Thursday of 200,000 tonnes, to 69.5m tonnes, in its forecast for the bloc’s corn production this year.

 

“In our opinion, it sounds too optimistic with the 2019 EU crop closer to 60m tonnes than 70m tonnes,” Mr Bodart said.

 

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