EU cereal, rapeseed crops in good shape going into winter
PARIS - Cereal and rapeseed plants in western Europe are generally in decent condition heading into winter after benefiting from favourable autumn weather, raising the prospect of another big harvest of wheat, the EU's main export crop. In France...
PARIS - Cereal and rapeseed plants in western Europe are generally in decent condition heading into winter after benefiting from favourable autumn weather, raising the prospect of another big harvest of wheat, the EU's main export crop.
In France, nearly all winter wheat and barley was in good shape, and with both crops estimated to have gained area the European Union's biggest grain producer.
Mild weather this autumn helped farmers complete sowing and let plants grow rapidly, with a colder spell since late November not severe enough to threaten young crops, analysts said.
"Wheat is developing very well, even the crops that were sown late," Paul Gaffet of consultancy ODA Groupe said. "The spring will determine next year's yields but for now we don't have any handicaps."
As of Monday, 98 percent of French soft wheat was rated good or excellent, while for winter barley and durum wheat the equivalent rating was 97 percent, according to farm office FranceAgriMer.
First area estimates for 2016 issued by the farm ministry on Friday showed the winter wheatarea up 1.5 percent at 5.22 million hectares, keeping the area at an 80-year high, while winter barley sowings were seen up 1.5 percent.
France harvested its biggest-ever soft wheat crop in 2015 at 41 million tons.
At EU level, Strategie Grains analysts estimate the soft wheat area will fall 1 percent to stay close to this year's high level, while the total barley area, including spring-sown crop, would increase 2 percent.
Poland has been a concern for crop watchers after drought hampered sowing, but the EU's crop monitoring service said last week that rainfall since mid-October had boosted crops and allowed farmers to re-sow where necessary.
In the UK, the EU's third-largest wheat grower, crops were generally developing well.
"Crops generally established well in warm, moist soils, and have grown rapidly in the mild autumn," crop consultants ADAS said in a report.
"Slugs were common problems in oilseed rape and some winter wheat, but there were few serious problems that were not controlled."
The mild autumn allowed UK farmers to complete sowing after a slow start caused by a late summer harvest, ADAS added.
The area sown with rapeseed, the most produced oilseed in the EU, is expected to fall sharply in the UK due to problems tackling cabbage flea beetles and given a shift towards barley.
In France, the winter rapeseed area was put by the ministry down 1.7 percent compared with this year's harvest.
But Strategie Grains sees total EU rapeseed sowings little changed at about 6.5 million hectares.