EU rapeseed hopes ease - but French wheat crop may near record high


Strategie Grains ditched ideas of a rebound in the European Union rapeseed harvest to a three-year high even as French officials warned over dryness setbacks – although farmers believe the country is on for a bumper wheat crop.

Strategie Grains downgraded by more than 500,000 tonnes, to 21.56m tonnes its forecast for this year's EU rapeseed harvest – the world's biggest.

The downgrade reflected in the main ideas that frost had hurt crops in some eastern EU states.

"Winter damage is expected to affect mainly Hungary and Bulgaria and to a lesser extent Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic," the Paris-based analysis group said, downgrading Bulgarian and Polish harvest estimates particularly, by 130,000 tonnes apiece.

"We will have to wait until the plantlets resume growing in spring to get a clear picture of the loss."

'Lack of rainfall'

Strategie Grains actually nudged higher its forecast for output in Germany and France, the top two EU producing countries – although the upgrades came as French officials cautioned over the impact of dryness on the domestic rapeseed crop.

The French farm ministry said that the country's rapeseed seedings in autumn had been "disrupted by a lack of rainfall", with some fields – particularly of later-planted crop - being abandoned, when they could potentially be resown for spring crops.

The ministry nudged lower by 8,000 hectares to a four-year low of 1.44m hectares its forecast for French rapeseed seedings for the 2017 harvest.

The downgrade extended to 110,000 hectares the excepted drop in area year on year, with officials cautioning over the potential for further downgrades.  

"Further [abandonment] of fields could occur, and the rapeseed area estimate could therefore be significantly revised downward in the coming months," the ministry said.

'Close to the record high'

The ministry also reduced, by 31,000 hectares its estimate of winter sowings of soft wheat, ditching ideas of a rise in area of winter crop, which accounts for the vast majority of the country's seedings of the grain.

Seedings at that level would match exactly those planted last year, rather than showing the small upgrade that officials had previously forecast, with growers seen as having planted a bit more winter barley than had been thought.

Nonetheless, winter sowings of soft wheat even at 5.16m hectares would be historically high, and ahead of the five-year average of 5.01m hectares.

Indeed, separately, the Association Générale des Producteurs de Blé et Autres Céréale producers group, or AGBP, forecast a sharp recovery in France's wheat production this year from the dismal 2016 result, which was affected by persistent summer rains.

The AGBP forecast France's crop at 38m-40m tonnes, a result potentially reaching the second largest on record.

A crop at this level "would come close to the record level achieved in the 2015-16 crop year," Commerzbank said, noting that last year, "the soft wheat crop slumped by 31% to 28m tonnes due to unfavourable weather conditions".


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