Rain-hit French wheat sowing seen down to 19-year low

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The area sown with soft for this year’s harvest in France, the ’s biggest producer, is estimated to have declined by 10% compared with 2019 to a 19-year low after heavy rain disrupted field work, a survey showed on Friday.
The area was seen at 4.47 million hectares, down from 4.97 million hectares last year, Sigma Conseil, a market analysis firm, said in a survey of French grain handling firms.
Like Britain, France experienced very wet weather during autumn that hampered sowing of wheat and barley crops before .
France’s farm ministry in December estimated the soft wheat area for the 2020 harvest would be down nearly 5%, but traders and have pointed to the prospect of a double-digit drop.
Sigma Conseil, part of French agricultural cooperative SCAEL, said its national area figure included 120,000 hectares estimated to have been sown since Christmas due to improved weather conditions.
The wheat area estimate remained tentative, as some sowing work was continuing in southwest France while grain firms also feared that some struggling wheat plants may have to be dug up and replaced with other crops, Sigma Conseil said.
It projected French soft wheat production in 2020 at 33.3 million tonnes, down from a 2019 crop of 39.5 million tonnes that was the second-largest on record.
The initial production outlook used a yield of 7.45 tonnes per hectare, representing an average of recent years excluding highs and lows, Sigma Conseil said, adding it was too early to predict the impact of sowing problems on yields.
Grain companies anticipated the difficult sowing conditions would hurt yields, although the most severe sowing were generally in western regions that tended to have yields below the national average, it said. The estimates were based on a first survey of grain firms over Dec. 15-17 and a follow-up survey on January 10-15.
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