Europe's grain production is rebounding and France is leading the way

Overseas conditions impacting local sector

Cropping
Grain stocks around the world are tightening across the board and the industry can ill afford production hiccups in Europe this year.

Grain stocks around the world are tightening across the board and the industry can ill afford production hiccups in Europe this year.

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Global grain balance sheets are tightening and Europe's production hiccups don't help.

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Big swathes of Europe have been denied a traditional spring after enduring one of the coldest Aprils in many decades.

This has hindered the growth and development of winter crops, and delayed planting and emergence of spring and summer crops across much of the continent.

These conditions were in stark contrast to warmer than average temperatures that dominated late March weather in many countries.

On the coldest April days, minimum temperatures were among the lowest on record.

Severe frosts battered crops in a belt that extended from Scotland in the north to Italy and Greece in the south.

Fortunately, it is still early in the season and the negative impacts on winter and spring crop production are expected to be minimal at this stage.

But several instances have led to a downward revision of yield forecasts for canola and durum wheat in parts of France and Italy.

Total wheat production for the 27 member states of the European Union is expected to increase by 7.79 million tonnes - or 6.2 per cent - to 292.65 million tonnes on the back of more favourable seeding and growing conditions, especially in France.

An increase of 3.5 per cent in the seeded area was the primary contributing factor, with the average yield up just 2.6 per cent.

Barley production is also expected to experience a modest rebound in output due to the improved seasonal conditions.

Total EU barley production is forecast to increase by just 1.28 million tonnes - or 2.3 per cent - to 56.50 million tonnes.

This emphasises how well the crop performed last year compared to wheat across most of the EU - France being the exception.

Canola is the other big-ticket winter crop commodity in the EU.

But production of the oilseed is now forecast to be quite similar to last season, on the back of the cold spring start taking its toll.

French farmers are forecast to harvest 16.46 million tonnes of canola in 2021, compared to 16.34 million tonnes last year.

The total planted area will be down slightly, but a higher average yield is expected to compensate for that loss.

FranceAgriMer released its latest crop report for the EU's biggest grain producer last Friday.

It said French crop conditions remained well above what they were at the same time in 2020.

But the data did reveal that the French soft wheat crop had deteriorated for the fourth successive week.

In the week to May 3, the government farm agency estimated 79 per cent of the soft wheat crop was in good or excellent condition. This was down from 81 per cent a week earlier.

Rain returned to much of France during the past couple of weeks, and there is more on the forecast, which is easing production concerns after the dry start to spring.

The benefit of this soil moisture boost was reflected in last week's two percentage point decline in soft wheat conditions compared to a four-percentage point decline in the seven days to April 26.

The proportion of the durum wheat area in the good-to-excellent rating category was unchanged week-on-week at 69 per cent, after tumbling from 77 per cent in the previous seven-day reporting period.

The winter barley crop was rated 76 per cent good-to-excellent, down from 77 per cent the previous week and 81 per cent two weeks ago.

On the other hand, the spring barley crop was unchanged in last week's report at 82 per cent - after falling five points a week earlier.

Despite the downward trend, French crop ratings remain higher than they were at the same time in 2020 - when developing crops were battered by torrential rain.

This time last year, the good-to-excellent score for the French soft wheat crop was just 57 per cent. The barley rating was slightly higher at 59 per cent.

This season's superior crop conditions are reflected in a rebound in French production estimates for the upcoming harvest.

The country's total wheat crop is forecast at 36.19 million tonnes, which is up 19.2 per cent - or 5.83 million tonnes - compared to last year.

The improved production forecast results from a 14.4 per cent increase in the area planted to soft wheat and a slight increase in the average yield from 6.82t/ha to 7.15tha.

The year-on-year barley production recovery is very similar, up 20.5 per cent - or 2.15 million tonnes - to 12.63 million tonnes.

But this is primarily a yield story - with the planted area up only 1.2 per cent.

The average yield is forecast to jump by 19 per cent to 6.33t/ha.

The French canola crop has perhaps been the worst affected by the string of severe frosts in April.

These frosts struck as the early winter varieties were in a sensitive flowering stage.

This followed reports back in early March that canola crops in several regions had been hit so hard by early season cold snaps and pest invasions that fields were sprayed out and resown to spring barley.

The French farm ministry estimates the country's canola area at 0.99 million hectares, which is down from 1.13 million hectares in its December update and 11 per cent lower than last year's planted area.

Production of canola in France is now forecast to be 314 million tonnes, which would be down for the fourth consecutive season.

This would also be 29 per cent lower than the five-year average, and 44 per cent lower than the record crop of 5.59 million tonnes set in the 2008-09 season.

Global balance sheets are tightening across the board and the world can ill afford production hiccups in Europe this year.

The hole in world corn supply is growing due to ongoing dryness in Brazil and an open cheque book in China.

As prices rapidly escalate, rationing has begun in earnest.

Wheat and, to a lesser degree, barley will be called on to partly fill the emerging chasm.

The oilseed story is no different.

Supplies are at record low levels in many jurisdictions - including major European producers - and question marks are hanging over Northern Hemisphere production estimates.

The story Europe's grain production is rebounding and France is leading the way first appeared on Farm Online.

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