Outlook seen mixed for western Europe wheat

January 12, 2013

Western Europe Wheat
Western Europe Wheat

Some of the wettest weather on record threatens to reduce wheat and rapeseed production in Britain this year as crops head into the depths of winter while the outlook is mixed in France and generally favourable in Germany, crop analysts said. Farmers in Britain are still waiting for a window of dry weather to complete wheat plantings which already look certain to be significantly below last season.

“Assuming a higher area of spring wheat is planted and some additional winter wheat, I would expect area to be between 1.7 and 1.85 million hectares,” analyst Susan Twining of crop consultants ADAS said. “If we get a fortnight with some dry and cold weather we could get a large area of winter wheat drilled so there is a lot of uncertainty in that figure,” she added.

Wheat area in Britain last year was 1.99 million hectares with the anticipated drop between 7 and 15 percent. Britain, the third largest producer in western Europe of both wheat and rapeseed, had its second wettest year on record in 2012. Twining said around 70,000 to 80,000 hectares of already planted wheat was of “questionable viability.”

Britain’s rapeseed area also looks set to decline significantly due to a delayed 2012 harvest and difficult planting conditions. “Our current forecast is that winter oilseed rape area will be down 10 percent,” she said, adding a further 10 percent of the planted area was of questionable viability. In France, wheat appears to be in better shape than rapeseed, while crops remain fragile to a sudden cold snap at a time when weather is particularly mild.

France is the top wheat producer in western Europe. “Late sowings in Northern and Western France due to autumn rains have caught up partly thanks to the rather mild temperatures so far,” Philippe Gate, scientific director of French crop institute Arvalis said. “In some cases excessive humidity may have limited root development, in the far north in particular,” he said.

The area in France sown with rapeseed for the next harvest has fallen sharply due to adverse weather, but wheat has regained area that was lost to frost last year, the French farm ministry said last month. Overall the total area sown with grains is expected to gain 3.2 percent, with wheat rising 2.8 percent, while rapeseed would shed 7.1 percent, it said.

Mild winter temperatures mean German wheat and rapeseed plants are in generally good condition in most of the country with rain not causing the concern seen in other countries. “Overall I think the picture so far in Germany is satisfactory with no frost damage to speak of with temperatures pretty mild since December,” a German analyst said. “There has been quite a lot of rain but field flooding appears isolated and I do not see waterlogging as a major problem and certainly not on the scale as seen in some other countries such as Britain.” Germany’s winter wheat sown area for the 2013 harvest has been expanded by 7 percent on the year to 3.1 million hectares, Germany’s national statistics office said on December 20.

Courtesy: Reuters

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