Weather cuts French wheat crop estimate

PARIS (Reuters) — France’s farm ministry lowered its estimate of the 2020 soft wheat harvest to 29.71 million tonnes, down 1.6 million tonnes from its initial forecast last month and now 25 percent below last year’s crop, due to the continued effects of adverse weather.

The reduced forecast was 16 percent lower than the average of the past five years and included the smallest harvested area since 1994, the ministry said in a crop report on Aug. 4.

It reiterated that heavy autumn rain and spring drought severely affected wheat in the European Union’s biggest grain producing country.

The ministry had surprised the market with its first soft wheat crop estimate of 31.31 million tonnes a month ago that showed a lower than expected crop area.

But analysts have since cut their expectations to below 30 million tonnes as the nearly complete harvest has shown disappointing yields while the market has adopted the ministry’s area figures.

The soft wheat area was now seen at 10.75 million acres against 10.9 million last month, with the ministry adding it could be revised further as it continued to factor in farmers’ data submissions for EU subsidies.

The projected soft wheat yield was trimmed to 4.76 tonnes per acre, from 2.87 tonnes per acre last month.

The ministry also reduced its estimate for this year’s barley crop, to 11.3 million tonnes from 12.3 million in July, now 18 percent below last year’s level.

In a first projection for this year’s grain corn harvest, the ministry forecast production excluding seeds would reach 14.13 million tonnes, up 10.8 percent from last year and one percent above the five-year norm, as both area and yield were projected to rise.

However, it cautioned that developing drought could affect corn yield potential.

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