August 2, 2012


France increases soft wheat crop estimate to 36.7 million tonnes



France has raised its estimate of this year's soft wheat crop by 7.9% after spring rains, although wet weather had raised some doubts over grain quality.


France, the EU's top wheat producer and exporter, now expects a 2012 soft wheat crop of 36.7 million tonnes, up 7.9% on last year's drought-affected harvest, the farm ministry said in a statement. This compared with the ministry's initial forecast in early July of 35.9 million tonnes.


"As of April, wet weather conditions were favourable for yields of straw cereals, in contrast to the very dry spring of 2011," the farm ministry's statistics service said.


"Some uncertainty remains, nonetheless, about the quality of the harvest due to persistent rain."


The raised estimate for this year's wheat crop was based on an average yield of 7.5 tonnes a hectare, up from 6.8 tonnes in 2011. Area was put at 4.9 million hectares, down from five million last year and reflecting some winter losses due to frost.


The ministry also revised upwards this year's total barley crop to 11.3 million tonnes from 11 million tonnes expected in July and now up 28.9% on 2011. This included an estimated winter barley crop of 6.9 million tonnes, up 8.8% on year, and spring barley output of 4.4 million tonnes, 80.4% above last year's level.


Spring barley, widely used to make beer ingredient malt, saw its area rise sharply as farmers re-sowed some fields after winter crops were damaged by unusually severe frost this year.


In its first estimate of this year's corn crop, harvesting of which does not begin until late summer, the ministry forecast grain corn production of 15.4 million tonnes, down from 15.7 million in 2011, as a drop in yields from last year's high levels offset a rise in planted area.


In oilseeds, this year's rapeseed crop was raised to 5.3 million tonnes from 5.1 million tonnes a month ago, down 1.8% on last year. In separate estimates on Wednesday (Aug 1), French oilseed institute Cetiom said the rapeseed crop could be between 5.3 million and 5.6 million tonnes on the basis of harvest results so far.


Harvesting, now in its final stages, suggested good early growth last autumn and regular rain since spring allowed most plants to cope with stress from winter frost and dryness in early spring, Cetiom said.


"We're pretty surprised by the yields," Fabien Lagarde, Cetiom's technical director, told reporters, estimating average yields at 3.3-3.5 tonnes a hectare.


"We're above the average of the past five years."