French wheat crop status uncertain after heatwave

Rtr Jn 27 Jury still out on state of French wheat crop after heatwave

PARIS, June 27 (Reuters) – A heatwave that hit France last week has left analysts with mixed views on the impact it will have on the wheat harvest this year, with some strongly reducing forecasts while others saying it came too late to cause major damage.

The state of the harvest in the European Union’s largest wheat grower, coupled with spring wheat problems in the U.S., had raised concern on global markets and sent European milling wheat futures to near one-year highs last week before paring gains on falling temperatures and rain forecasts.

Consultancy Strategie Grains slashed its estimate for France’s 2017 soft wheat harvest by 1.6 million tonnes from its previous report on June 15 to 35.6 million tonnes. The mid-June estimate was made before the severe heatwave that hit most of the country.

Strategie Grains’ forecast still marks a rebound from last year’s 28-million-tonne crop marred by wet, overcast weather, but is below other analyst and trade average estimates putting the French crop at around 36-37 million tonnes.

“When we have such hot weather, we see yields fall sharply every day,” Laurine Simon, an analyst with the firm, said.

“Scalding damage linked to the heatwave last week was worsened by a water deficit since autumn and temperatures that did not decrease overnight.”

Strategie Grains will carry out field observations this week to check further the extent of the damage, she added.

In contrast, a Thomson Reuters Agriculture Research team coming back from a crop tour in parts of France in the past 10 days said in most places the hot spell came too late to cause much damage.

“Wheat and rapeseed were generally in good condition despite little to no presence of moisture in the topsoil,” Thomson Reuters agriculture analyst Victoria Sinitsyna said.

Dryness this year had to some extent affected crops, notably in the Picardy region north of Paris. Thomson Reuters analysts saw scope to cut their French soft wheat crop estimate by 1-3 million tonnes to 36-37 million tonnes, she said.

But most yield losses probably pre-dated the heatwave while cooler, wetter weather this week could help later-developing wheat in the north provided rain was not persistent, Daniel Redo, who also took part in the tour, added.

The EU’s crop-monitoring service MARS on Monday also said continued heat was expected to impact French yields, notably the grain-filling of winter cereals such as soft wheat.

It forecast a soft wheat yield at 6.77 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), down 4.2 percent on the five-year average. This compares to a yield of 6.88 t/ha in Strategie Grains’ latest estimate.

However, MARS stressed there was still high uncertainty about winter grains’ final yields as conditions were widely reported to be highly heterogeneous.


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