France’s farm ministry pegged the country’s soft wheat sowings at the highest in at least 23 years, citing improved sowing conditions, and a reduced appetite among farmers for spring barley and potatoes.
French growers, the European Union’s top wheat producers, will ended up planting 5.18m hectares of soft wheat for this year’s harvest, the ministry said in its first cereals forecasts including both spring and winter crop.
Sowings at that level would be up 3.4% year on year, and the biggest on official records going back to 2002, topping a high of 5.05m hectares set in 2008.
The figure included an upgraded estimate for winter wheat sowings, the vast majority of plantings, pegged at 5.16m hectares, with the ministry highlighting a 22% rebound in plantings in Lorraine in north east France, hit by poor weather last season.
For durum too – the hard wheat used for making pasta, and also mainly autumn sown in France – plantings will end up showing a rise, by 11.7% to 320,000 hectares, albeit a figure still behind the French average of close to 400,000 hectares.
“During the [autumn] planting season, the price ratio between durum and soft wheat was high enough to make growing durum wheat attractive,” the farm ministry said.
However, the first estimate for spring barley plantings showed a drop of 11.4% in sowings to a five-year low of 464,000 hectares, after a rise in sowings of winter crop.
The ministry also highlighted the potential for a drop in plantings of potatoes, “lower prices of which appear to be impacting area”, with values “halved in a year”.
The soft wheat area data will further increase initial expectations for a crop marked also by strong condition, with FranceAgriMer, the official crop bureau, in pegging 91% of seedlings in “good” or “excellent” condition last week, up 1 point week on week.
A year ago, the figure was 76%.
For durum, 89% was seen in good or excellent health, up 4 points week on week, and up from 60% a year ago.
The winter barley crop was rated 91% as good or excellent, up 1 point week on week and above the 75% a year ago.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/french-soft-wheat-sowings-highest-in-at-least-23-years)