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Published February 24, 2014, 09:19 AM

Timing of rains in Europe minimizes potential threat to crops

LONDON — Wheat crops in western Europe appear in generally good condition despite heavy rains and flooding in parts of Britain and France, analysts said Feb. 20.

By: Nigel Hunt, Reuters

LONDON — Wheat crops in western Europe appear in generally good condition despite heavy rains and flooding in parts of Britain and France, analysts said Feb. 20.

Parts of Britain have been under water since December after a series of unusually heavy storms inundated large swathes of the British countryside.

“There may be some localized impact (on crops from the floods), but overall it will be fairly minimal,” says Jack Watts, senior analyst at Britain’s Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

“It is not a nationwide problem at this point,” he says.

Rains in the run-up to Britain’s wheat harvest in 2012 severely reduced the quality of that season’s crop.

Britain received a further drenching during the autumn of 2012 that wrecked autumn plantings and led to the smallest wheat crop in more than a decade.

This year’s deluge, however, has come at a less critical time of year for crops.

“Better a wet January than a wet July,” Watts says.

Britain should harvest a much larger wheat crop this summer with plantings rebounding because of generally favorable conditions last autumn.

“The expectation is there will be a much more normal area of wheat in the UK for the coming harvest,” Watts says.

An HGCA survey issued in November projected a 22 percent rise in UK wheat area for this year’s harvest.

In France, the European Union’s largest wheat producer, crops are also generally progressing well, although excessively wet weather this winter in western and central France could hurt yields in those areas.

“Plants have developed thanks to winter warmth, but the excess water sometimes hampers growth, which creates diverse situations depending on the type of soil,” says Jean-Paul Bordes from Arvalis technical institute.

The wet conditions could impact final yields and put well-developed crops at risk of late frost damage, Bordes says. The lack of cold weather may also have favored pest proliferation with first symptoms showing up in some fields.

In Germany, the EU’s second-largest wheat producer, both wheat and other winter grain plants are developing well with the winter mild and Germany not suffering from excessive rain seen in some other countries.

“Plants in most German regions continue to display a good condition,” says Germany’s largest grain trader Toepfer International.

“In late January, temperatures in some parts of Germany fell to under minus 15 Celsius, but sufficient snow cover was available (to protect crops) in the eastern German regions hit,” Toepfer says.

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