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French officials forecast dryness-hit rapeseed harvest at 16-year low

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French officials underlined the poor prospects for the country’s rapeseed harvest this year, pegging it at a 16-year low, even as it nudged higher expectations for spring barley and corn plantings.

 

The French farm ministry, in its first forecast for 2019 domestic rapeseed production, pegged it 3.8m tonnes – representing a tumble of 1.1m tonnes year on year, and a result which would be the lowest since the 3.36m tonnes produced in 2003-04.

 

The estimate compares with a figure of 4.03m tonnes from industry group Coceral, although is in line with the latest forecast from analysis group Strategie Grains.

 

‘Very poor condition’

The ministry highlighted the setback to the rapeseed crop from weather conditions which, since autumn sowings, had been “characterised by a marked water deficit, and a mildness interrupted by a cold spell in January.

 

“Many crops have suffered from these conditions”, although in particular durum wheat, for which the weather was seen fuelling an 11.5% drop in area, and winter rapeseed, which accounts for essentially all the French harvest of the oilseed.

 

The ministry pegged the French rapeseed yield this year at 12-year low of 2.94 tonnes per hectare, while standing by an estimate of area at 1.31m hectares, the lowest in 15 years.

 

“With the exception of Normandy… the condition of crops is very poor,” the ministry said, adding that “drought and frost” had, besides creating flowering problems, “associated with attacks of flea beetle”, a damaging rapeseed pest.

 

Output in Auvergne was seen tumbling by 68%, and in Bordeaux by 59%.

 

Spring crop expansion

The ministry stood by a forecast for soft wheat sowings for the 2019 harvest up some 140,000 hectares year on year at 5.02m hectares – it has yet to make an official harvest estimate.

 

However, it raised its area forecasts for many spring crops, citing “the difficulties” faced notably by durum wheat and rapeseed.

 

The forecast for spring barley plantings was raised by 16,000 hectares to 589,000 hectares – a multi-year high, and well above the 478,000 hectares planted last year.

 

“Difficulties this year on rapeseed and beetroot prompted farmers to change to this crop.”

 

For corn, the sowings figure was upgraded by 10,000 acres to a four-year high of 1.50m hectares, with the ministry saying that area is “clearly increasing”, up 31%, in Centre region.

 

The sunflower area estimates was upgraded by 17,000 hectares to a five-year high of 624,000 hectares.

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