French corn sowings to hit lowest in at least 25 years

10.05.2017

Corn sowings in France, the European Union's top producer, will fall to their lowest in at least 25 years, as growers, deterred by two years of poor yields, opt for other spring crops – with sugar beet area to soar.

France's agriculture ministry, in its first forecast for domestic corn seedings this year, pegged them at 1.45m hectares – a drop of 2.4% year on year, and the weakest on data going back to 1993-94.

The drop in the figure, which comprises 1.39m hectares of corn for grain and 63,000 tonnes for seed, comes as a dry spring in France is raising alarm bells among growers.

"Some farmers may be reluctant to plant corn because of the lack of soil moisture. Irrigation may be restricted in some areas," the ministry said.

It highlighted that "in the past two years, [corn] yield has been low due to drought", with the result coming in at 84.1 tonnes per hectare last year, and 82.5 tonnes per hectare in 2015 – compared with a 104 tonnes-per-hectare result in 2013.

'Lack of water'

The ministry highlighted that dryness is an issue for autumn-seeded cereals too, noting that "spring weather conditions are not favourable to winter crops.

"The lack of water slows down the development of plants," it said, adding that frosts and volatile temperatures "could reduce the yield potential of some [winter] crops.

"It is, however, too early to predict their level," the ministry added, saying that weather "in the coming weeks will be decisive".

'Sharp increase in beet area'

However, overall sowings with major crops will hold steady at 9.5m hectares, with the ministry making small upgrades to it estimates for winter grain seedings, including a 33,000-hectare uplift to 1.47m hectares in the figure for winter barley plantings.

Furthermore, it saw higher sowings of a number of spring crops, including spring barley and soybeans, of which plantings will rise by 6,000 hectares to a record 142,000 hectares.

Sugar beet plantings will jump by 69,000 hectares to 472,000 hectares, reflecting European Union sugar market liberalisation which kicks in in September.

"This prospect leads to a sharp increase in beet area," the ministry said.

'Continue to stress'

The comments actually follow some rains in France, deemed "welcome" by Agritel, and with MDA saying that "additional improvements are expected across central and southern France" this week.

"However, some dryness will likely continue to stress winter wheat and rapeseed as well as corn and sunflower germination across eastern Spain, southern Italy, northern France, UK, and north-western Germany."


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