European Union wheat production will fall this year despite a rise in French output to its highest in more than a decade, Coceral said, foreseeing falls in the bloc’s barley, corn and rapeseed harvests too.
The industry group, in its first forecasts for 2015 crop output, pegged the EU’s wheat harvest – the world’s biggest – at 146.2m tonnes, down 9.65m tonnes from last year’s record crop.
The forecast, which reflected expectations for falls in both area and yield, was a little below estimates from other observers such as Strategie Grains, which pegs the harvest including durum at 148.3m tonnes.
The International Grains Council on Thursday pegged the EU crop at 147.2m tonnes, noting that “warm and mostly dry weather in March speeded winter crop development in western areas and brought plants out of dormancy in the east”, but factoring in nonetheless “a return to average yields from the high levels” of 2014.
German, UK declines
Coceral forecast reflected expectations of weaker harvests in three of the EU’s four top wheat producing countries – Germany, the UK and Poland – thanks mainly to lower yield expectations.
The German wheat crop was pegged at 25.4m tonnes, a drop of 2.4m tonnes year on year, and a markedly more downbeat forecast than the 26.7m tonnes pencilled in by the Deutscher Raiffeisenverband group of farm co-operatives.
DRV said two weeks ago that while yields were likely to fall short of the strong 2014 levels, “due to the generally mild weather cereal and oilseed rape crops have survived the winter months without significant damage”.
Coceral pegged the UK wheat harvest at 14.4m tonnes, a drop of 2.1m tonnes from last year’s strong result.
High French sowings
However, the group saw the French harvest, the EU’s biggest, rising by 680,000 tonnes to 39.62m tonnes, a level not seen since 2004, on records kept by the US Department of Agriculture.
According to data France’s official Agreste statistics division, it would beat, narrowly, even the 2004 harvest, and represent the largest since 1998.
Coceral saw French sowings of soft wheat – which accounts for the vast majority of the French and indeed EU wheat crops –rising to 5.13m hectares, the highest since at least 1992, when compared with Agreste data.
The soft wheat yield was seen remaining close to last year’s 7.48 tonnes per hectare.
Data on Friday from France’s official FranceAgriMer bureau showed the 90% of the domestic soft wheat crop rated as being in “good” or “excellent” condition, down 1 point week on week but well above the 76% a year before.
Barley and corn
For barley, Coceral pegged EU production dropping by some 1.8m tonnes to 48.42m tonnes, against with declines seen in the likes of Germany and the UK, but not in France.
FranceAgriMer data show 90% of French barley in “good” or “excellent” condition too, up from 73% a year ago.
Meanwhile, this year’s EU corn crop was seen falling by 7.8m tonnes to 66.0m tonnes, a reflection of lower sowings and yield expectations, including in France, the EU’s top producing country for the grain.
Insect pressure eases
EU rapeseed output was seen falling by some 3.5m tonnes to 21.62m tonnes, undermined by weaker yield expectations for France, Poland, the UK and, especially, Germany, where output will fall by nearly 1m tonnes to 5.31m tonnes.
The Coceral estimates see Germany’s lead over France in rapeseed production falling to 84,000 tonnes this year from 748,000 tonnes in 2014.
Even so, the group is more generous than the DRV, which pegs German rapeseed production this year at 5.2m tonnes.
The International Grains Council on Thursday nudged its forecast for EU rapeseed output this year higher by 100,000 tonnes to 21.3m tonnes, “reflecting a marginally increased figure for Germany, where pest infestation has eased more recently”.
Farmers have warned over losses to insect outbreaks, after an EU ban on a controversial insecticide.