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French wheat crop to hit record 40.4mn tonnes

French wheat crop to hit record 40.4mn tonnesPARIS: France should produce a record 40.4 million tonnes of soft wheat this year after harvesting in the European Union’s largest grain grower showed little impact from this summer’s dry, hot weather, farm office FranceAgriMer said on Friday.

The estimate was above an initial forecast of 37.9 million tonnes in early July, and at the top end of market estimates putting the crop at 39-40 million tonnes.

Like other crop forecasters, FranceAgriMer said drought and extreme heat this summer that have hurt maize (corn) plants came too late to damage wheat that enjoyed good conditions earlier in its growth cycle.

The previous record for soft wheat production in France was 38.2 million tonnes harvested in 1998. Last year, the crop reached 37.5 million tonnes.

FranceAgriMer’s harvest estimate was based on a national yield of 7.83 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), surpassing the average of the previous five years at 7.26 t/ha and supported by above-average yields across the country.

The soft wheat area was put at 5.2 million hectares, in line with previous estimates calling for the highest area in almost 80 years. Crop quality was generally good.

Among criteria used to measure milling quality, test weights were excellent and should on average be around 80 kilos per hectolitre, one of the highest levels of the past 20 years, the office said in a statement.

Another measure, Hagberg falling numbers, which suffered last year from heavy summer rain, were showing very good results across the country, it said, without giving figures.

It also echoed market consensus that protein content was more disappointing, estimating it would generally hold close to last year’s levels at between 10.5 and 11.5 percent.

Protein was diluted by the high yields while in some regions dry conditions in the run-up to harvesting prevented crops from benefiting from nitrogen fertiliser, which promotes protein development, it said.

For barley, winter varieties similarly escaped damage from dry, hot weather, allowing the national yield to reach an above-average 7.4 t/ha and production 9.6 million tonnes, up from 8.4 million last year, FranceAgriMer said.

Later-developing spring barley suffered more from heat, with yields falling below 5 t/ha in the east, it said, estimating the crop would fall to 2.9 million tonnes from 3.2 million in 2014. Rapeseed felt the effects of dry conditions, contributing to varied yields that pushed production down to near 5.1 million tonnes after a unusually high 5.5 million last year.

Copyright Reuters, 2015

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