March 12, 2012


France's wheat harvest likely to drop 5% due to cold weather


France's damaged wheat crops caused by freezing weather in early February could lower 2012's harvest by 1.9 million tonnes or about 5% of the initial crop potential, grains consultancy Agritel said on Friday (Mar 9).


"This survey highlights damage that is above what was suggested by first estimates in previous weeks, notably in wheat," Agritel said in a note. "Durum, rapeseed and winter barley fare better than expected."


The estimates of winter damage to crops were based on a survey of about 2,000 farmers between March 5-7.


In a first assessment, Agritel put the potential effect of the cold spell on wheat at 500,000 to one million tonnes, below the estimate of fellow consultancy Offre & Demande Agricole for an impact of 1.3 million tonnes.


Extreme winter conditions swept across Europe in late January and early February, claiming hundreds of lives in eastern countries.


Concerns about crop damage in France, the EU's top grain producer, were initially confined to durum and barley, but significant losses to the main wheat crop have since emerged in eastern France.


Agritel's estimate of the impact on this year's wheat harvest was calculated on the basis that 5% of the national wheat area was lost and another 13% damaged, thereby seeing a 10% drop in yield potential.


Re-sowing of fields with spring wheat would offset these losses only to a small extent, with about 69,000 hectares or 429,000 tonnes projected by Agritel. Re-sowing of wheat and other damaged winter crops such as durum would lead to a sharp rise in sowing of spring barley.


The crop, widely used for making beer ingredient malt, would gain about 106,000 hectares and could see output rise by about 20% compared with initial projections, Agritel said.


Winter barley production could be cut by about 317,000 tonnes or 4.5%, while durum could lose 112,000 tonnes or 5.5% of its initial crop potential, it said.


The impact on rapeseed was seen at around 108,000 tonnes or 2% of the baseline crop potential.