A drop in yields can’t be blamed on the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, says an analyst, citing a bumper crop last year
PARIS, France (Reuters) — Rapeseed crops in Western Europe are emerging from winter in reasonable condition.
The news eases concerns that a mild autumn and a ban on common pesticides would lead to widespread damage, analysts said.
This year’s European Union rapeseed harvest should be smaller than last year’s record crop, but yields and output were still on course to surpass the average of recent years.
The EU’s crop monitoring service expects an average rapeseed yield of 58 bushels an acre, 9.4 percent below last year’s level but 3.7 percent above the five-year average.
The European Commission, in its initial harvest outlook this month, expects rapeseed production at 21.1 million tonnes, down 12 percent from last year’s record 24.1 million but 4.3 percent above the five-year mean.
“Rapeseed yields in the EU should be pretty good if weather conditions remain favourable,” said Antoine Liagre of the ODA consultancy.
Analysts had cautioned that insect predation in Britain and Germany and mild weather in autumn and early winter would leave rapeseed vulnerable to frost and further re-duced a seeded area that was already down from the previous year.
Some observers also warned that the EU’s withdrawal of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are widely used to treat rapeseed and blamed for contributing to a sharp decline in bee numbers, would harm crop prospects, notably in Germany.
“The neonicotinoid ban has caused problems but is not the reason for the drop in yields,” a German analyst said. “The rapeseed crop will reach a good average level but you cannot expect last year’s bumper result to be repeated every year.”
The association of German farm co-operatives expects the country’s 2015 winter rapeseed crop to fall 16.6 percent from last year to 5.20 million tonnes.
In France, rapeseed had benefitted from a moderate winter and drier conditions this month after a damp February.
“Crops got through winter without major problems given the absence of severe frosts,” said Fabien Lagarde of the oilseed technical institute Cetiom.
“Zones that were affected by excess rain are seeing conditions improve with the drier weather.”
British rapeseed conditions were satisfactory.
“We’ve had quite a normal winter in terms of rainfall and temperatures with no extremes,” said analyst Susan Twining of the crop consultant company ADAS. “We’re not expecting cabbage stem flea beetle damage to cause any widespread yield losses.”
The EU pesticide restrictions had raised concerns about damage from cabbage stem flea beetles and peach potato aphids, and Twining said the latter would still have to be monitored.