French farmers to harvest least wheat in 28 years

Posted on August 04, 2016

FRENCH farmers will harvest the least wheat in almost three decades after rains and an overcast spring damaged crops in the European Union’s biggest producer, Offre & Demande Agricole (ODA) said.

File photo of a wheat plant --
Output of soft wheat, used for bread and chicken feed, will total 28.2 million metric tons this year, the farm adviser said in an e-mailed statement Monday. That would be down 31% from a year earlier and the least since 1988, EU data show. ODA had previously forecast a crop of 30.4 million tons.

France had one of its wettest springs and early summers of the past 50 years, delaying the start of the harvest and fueling concerns about crop disease. The country’s wheat is in the worst condition in at least five years, with just 40% receiving the top ratings, crops office FranceAgriMer said last week. The reduced harvest may cut the biggest EU exporters’ trade balance by €3 billion ($3.35 billion), according to ODA.

The impact will leave “a hole in grain growers’ treasuries and the entire French industry,” the adviser said. “The shock to the French farmers will be felt all the way to the final buyers.”

The forecast was lowered following feedback from a network of more than 1,000 farmers. Crops are worsening in northeast areas and yields aren’t improving in the best soils north of Paris, it said.

June rainfall in the north and northeast was as much as 2 1/2 times above normal, while sunshine hours from central to northern France were 40% to 50% fewer than usual, according to Meteo-France. Excess water drowned roots and caused fungal diseases on leafs and grain ears, while a lack of sun reduced the number and size of kernels, according to crop researcher Arvalis.

ODA’s forecast compares with last year’s record crop of 41 million tons. Farm adviser CRM AgriCommodities said last week that the harvest may dip below 30 million tons. That’s lower than estimates from German commodity trader BayWa and France’s Agriculture Ministry.

Algeria, Africa’s second-largest wheat buyer after Egypt, typically imports most of its grain from France. -- Bloomberg