April 10, 2012


France's wheat acreage to dive to nine-year low



The soft-wheat growing land of France may slump to the lowest in nine years after freezing temperatures devastated fields in the EU's largest grower of the grain, reported the government's crop office.


The area may fall 5.4% to 4.72 million hectares (11.7 million acres) from 4.98 million hectares in 2011, according to data from FranceAgriMer, which last month estimated farmers had planted 5.07 million hectares of soft wheat, an increase of 1.7% over last year's area.


Temperatures in France's Lorraine, Champagne and Burgundy regions fell as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) in February, damaging emerging wheat plants. French wheat production may be cut by 2.5 million tonnes due to winter kill, farm adviser Offre et Demande Agricole estimates.


The estimated crop area was reviewed following the damage caused by frost, Xavier Rousselin, head of arable crops at Montreuil-sous-Bois, France-based FranceAgriMer, said by e-mail.


Paris-traded milling wheat for November delivery rose above grain for December delivery in Chicago for the first time in the contracts' lifetime on February 7. Buyers now need to pay about US$267.97 a tonne for French wheat, US$17.77 a tonne more than for soft red winter wheat.


The soft-wheat area would be the lowest since 2003, when French farmers harvested 4.52 million hectares of the grain, slashing production to 29.1 million tonnes from 37.3 million tonnes the previous year.


The estimate of the soft-wheat area in Lorraine, which last year grew 4.6% of the French crop, was cut to 69,850 hectares from 253,000 hectares, FranceAgriMer data show. Farmers in Champagne-Ardennes, good for 9.3% of last year's harvest, will grow wheat on 302,800 hectares rather than the 415,000 hectares estimated in March.


Barley area will also slide, falling 12% to 924,315 hectares from 1.05 million hectares in 2011, according to FranceAgriMer. The office had previously expected barley planting to climb 2.5% to 1.08 million hectares.


FranceAgriMer cut its estimate of the area for growing rapeseed to 1.57 million hectares from 1.58 million hectares. France is the EU's largest grower of the oilseed ahead of Germany, according to data from the bloc.