LONDON — Heavy rains have delayed grain sowings in parts of the European Union with the situation particularly severe in Britain where they could trigger a significant shift to spring planted crops.

The rains have also disrupted the harvesting of maize and sugar beet, adding to the challenge faced by farmers who are trying to get winter crops planted.

“Overall it is estimated that wheat plantings are just about 40-50% complete in the UK. We still have a bit of time but the weather forecast is far from ideal,” said Ben Bodart, Director at CRM AgriCommodities.

Bodart noted the last time that Britain had significant planting issues was for the 2013/14 campaign when the final wheat area fell by nearly 19%.

UK wheat futures on ICE have been rising sharply for 2020/21 crop positions with the Nov. 2020 contract climbing to a peak of 160.00 pounds a ton on Thursday, up 10% from a month earlier.

“Some farmers are already considering rolling their 2019 harvest over to sell it next season,” Bodart said.

In France, winter barley is most at risk of losing area because of its earlier planting period compared with wheat.

However, the main threat from rain was to the ongoing maize harvest, with potential for disease in late-gathered crop, analysts and traders said.

“The rain has hampered winter barley sowing quite a bit in France and the UK, and there will be some sowing intentions that won’t be fulfilled,” Benoit Fayaud of crop analysts Strategie Grains said.

“It’s also slowing soft wheat sowing but there’s a longer window than for winter barley.”

French farmers had sown 67% of the expected soft wheat area as of Nov. 4, with sowing now eight days behind the average of the past five years, according to farming agency FranceAgriMer. Winter barley sowing was 81% complete and also eight days behind the five-year average.

German winter grains sowings have also been delayed.

“It is the winter grain sowings on the harvested maize and sugar fields which are being delayed, earlier sowings went very well,” one German grains analyst said.

“Currently it is not a very serious problem but it is making estimates of the winter wheat planted area for next summer’s crop difficult as we do not know if some farmers will be compelled to move to planting more spring grains.”

Poland also had a rainy autumn, but with enough sunny days allowing farmers to sow winter crops, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“Polish farmers have generally managed to plant winter crops in a timely manner,” Sabaranski said. “Warm weather helped establish winter crops already sown and enabled maize harvesting to run at a pretty good pace.” — Reuters