EU rapeseed sown but rain needed

PARIS, France – European rapeseed sowings are now complete in France and Germany, the main producers, but some areas are suffering from a serious lack of rain that could lead to growth problems and lower yields.

Although it was too early to give precise estimates for the area sown, analysts expect the rapeseed plantings to be stable to higher from 2003.

The head of the French technical oilseeds centre Cetiom said the dry weather for almost six months could hurt early plant growth.

“The weather was not good during sowing. And it’s still dry everywhere,” he said. “If it does not rain soon, five to 10 percent of the (rapeseed) area sown will not come up.”

Cetiom said it expected the rapeseed area to be equal to or slightly above the farm ministry’s estimate of 2.7 million acres for the 2003 crop.

In Germany, rapeseed planting was delayed because of the heat wave and drought in August, but is now complete. Analysts also warned of the consequences on yields next summer.

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“A lot of rapeseed was planted several weeks late and will be significantly behind in growth this winter,” an analyst said.

There is a greater risk of frost damage to rapeseed this season, he added. The same situation could be seen in the United Kingdom where dry weather also raised concerns about this year’s winter rapeseed crop, with farmers in some areas considering ripping up the crop and seeding again because of the poor development.

“We expect rapeseed plantings to be up by some 10-15 percent but things aren’t looking good,” said David Parish, of crop consultants ADAS.

“Because of the dry weather, there are still large areas … where the plants have failed to emerge – I would say that we’re probably a month behind in terms of development and that doesn’t bode well for yields,” Parish added.

U.K. growers planted rapeseed on one million acres in 2003.

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Winter grain sowings such as wheat and barley, traditionally sown later than rapeseed, were only at early stages, except for Britain where they were well under way.

“There’s not much sown yet out there,” said a technical analyst from French cereals centre Arvalis.

In Spain, the young farmers’ association said it was too early and too dry to sow winter grain after a long, hot summer. It did not expect to start sowings until November.

In Britain, cereal plantings started two weeks ago but rain was needed.

“It’s probably a bit early to say how much more will be planted, but we are definitely expecting a swing away from barley into wheat,” said Paul Ibbot, cereals adviser to the National Farmers’ Union.

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