EU farmers stick with wheat for 2017, despite rapeseed's price appeal


EU farmers will keep soft wheat area the same for the 2017 harvest despite the depressant of weak prices, Strategie Grains said, citing a limited switching  of land to rapeseed instead.

The influential analysis group, in its first detailed forecast for EU cereals sowings for next year's harvest, pegged soft wheat area at 24.3m hectares, little changed from the 24.2m hectares planted last time.

The forecast, which tallies with earlier guidance from Strategie Grains of little change in wheat area, is in line too with expectations from some other commentators, such as the International Grains Council, which forecast EU wheat area proving "broadly unchanged" year on year.

And Strategie Grains echoed too IGC comments of a lack of "attractive alternatives" for growers, despite relatively firm prices of rapeseed, of which, like wheat, the EU is the top producer.

Rapeseed area

In fact, Strategie Grains last week pegged EU rapeseed area for the 2017 harvest at 6.62m hectares, up a modest 90,000 hectares year on year, with poor conditions during the sowings window, which is weighted earlier than that for wheat, limiting sowings

In some areas, commentators have also flagged the relative difficulty of growing rapeseed following restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, curbs viewed as leaving crops in many areas vulnerable to pests such as cabbage stem flea beetle.

The issue has been particularly acute in the UK, potentially because of its relatively warm and wet winters, where rapeseed area for 3027 was last week pegged by the AHDB bureau at a 13-year low of 557,000 hectares, down 4% year on year.

"There has been a dramatic decrease in the east of the country, a 28% decline attributed to cabbage stem flea beetle damages, and a lack of moisture which made establishment very difficult," Millie Askew, AHDB cereals and oilseeds analyst, said.

By contrast, rapeseed is seen by UFOP as having gained some ground in Germany, with the oilseeds association pegging sowings for the 2017 harvest at 1.35m hectares, a gain of 1.5% year on year.

Winter vs spring crops

Strategie Grains also forecast little change in sowings of winter barley, limiting scope for a release of land for an uplift in plantings of spring-seeded crops such as corn, of which area will be stable in 2017 at relatively low levels.

The group last week pegged seeding of sunflowers, another spring crop, at 4.17m hectares for 2017 – up just 10,000 hectares year on year.

One crop which is seen losing area is durum, the wheat variety used to make pasta, for which area was seen dropping 7% to 2.7m hectares.

Paris wheat futures for September 2017, the first new crop contract, stood at E173.00 a tonne on Thursday, unchanged on the day, and some 7% below where the September 2016 contract stood a year ago.

Paris rapeseed futures for August 2017 stood unchanged at E3766.50 a tonne, up 5% on where the August 2016 lot was standing a year ago.


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