November 11, 2011


Western Europe's wheat, rapeseed develop positively



Western Europe's wheat and rapeseed sown recently are growing well following a spell of warm autumn weather, with plants able to resist the winter, according to analysts.


According to Reuters, there was concern about a lack of rain hampering sowing in Spain, as well as some worries about rain delays in Italy and potentially too-fast rapeseed growth in France, but no major risk comparable with the drought in Ukraine.


In France, the EU's top grain producer, sowing of winter wheat was mostly over, with warm, dry conditions in September and October helping field work and early plant growth.


"Conditions are reasonable for plant development and good for late sowing," grains consultancy Agritel said of wheat. "For the moment there are no particular worries, the crops are looking pretty much okay."


Operators generally expect the soft wheat area to be little changed from the five million hectares sown for 2011.


France's rapeseed area is widely tipped to rise as farmers react to high prices and strong yields in the 2011 harvest. The area was 1.56 million hectares in 2011, the farm ministry says.


Rapeseed crops were generally in a satisfactory state, oilseeds institute Cetiom said.


There has been concern that early sowing and warm weather have caused some crops to grow too quickly, leaving them vulnerable to damage from snowfall or freezing temperatures in winter, but Cetiom said the risk was limited at this stage.


"There is no danger for now. If 30 centimetres of snow were to fall, then we would revise our outlook," said Cetiom's analyst, referring to conditions in a western zone that accounts for a third of France's rapeseed area.


In Germany, warm and dry autumn weather means both wheat and rapeseed plantings are developing well, analysts said.


"The ground has been relatively dry which has encouraged development of good root systems for both wheat and rapeseed, although there is concern about some late rapeseed plantings in the north," one analyst said.


Observers expect a continuation of the trend seen in recent years towards more wheat and corn plantings.


Germany harvested 3.2 million hectares of wheat in 2011, up 3% against the 2005/10 average, and 470,000 hectares of corn, up 6.3% over 2005/10.


"The rain which delayed grain harvesting this summer also meant it was too late to sow rapeseed in parts of the north by the time the wheat was in," another analyst said.


"Farmers in the south expanded rapeseed production but it is difficult to say if this was enough to prevent an overall reduction in the sowings," the second analyst said.


Wheat crops in Britain were in generally good condition in the run-up to winter.


"The vast majority of wheat crops are drilled now and emerged and they have had pretty much ideal conditions," an analyst of crop consultants ADAS said.


"We have had very even germination and establishment in most cases and there is very little to worry about."


Wheat area in Britain is seen little changed from the prior season's 1.97 million hectares which produced a crop of 15.36 million tonnes, according to farm ministry figures.


The outlook for rapeseed crops was generally favourable.


"The downside is whether they are just too far forward going into the winter and if we get a lot of snow cover that could cause some problems but if we have a normal winter it shouldn't pose any major problems," an ADAS' analyst said, noting there were some problems with frost damage in forward crops last year.


ADAS sees the rapeseed area in Britain rising 2-3% from the prior season's 705,000 hectares, which produced a record crop of 2.78 million tonnes.


Heavy rains which hit Italy in the past few days could trigger some delays in wheat planting, but higher prices than last year are likely to encourage farmers to sow more wheat.


Wheat planting in Italy started at the beginning of November and usually runs until December or January in some regions.


"There is some concern that sowing campaign could slow down if the situation with rain does not improve," said a senior grain expert at farmers group Coldiretti.


"There has been a small fall in wheat prices recently but they are still above last year's prices. That makes us think that planted areas could increase both for soft and durum wheat," he said, adding it was too early for precise forecasts.


Italy produced 2.75 million tonnes of soft wheat on 508,000 hectares of planted areas this year and 3.8 million tonnes of durum wheat on about 1.15 million hectares, according to official data cited by Coldiretti.


In major importer Spain, farmers say persistent lack of rain may further delay wheat and barley planting and continue a downward trend under way for years due to cuts in EU subsidies.

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