France’s drought-struck wheat crop looks like beating the market’s worst fears thanks to the reviving effect of late rains, Offre Demande Agricole analysts said in their first analysis of the newly-started harvest.
Early harvest results, from southern areas, showed yields down 22% year on year, thanks to a drought termed by some analysts as the worst in 50 years, with Paris receiving less than 1mm of rain between March and May compared with an average of 65mm.
However, this "strong downward trend", from areas producing only the first 15% of the French soft wheat crop, the European Union’s biggest, did not reflect the national picture, ODA said.
Talk from the major grain producing regions north of Paris, where the crop cycle runs a little later, was "more reassuring", the French-based group said.
"The rainfall in June has allowed yields to recover slightly, with the number of grains per ear and specific weight higher than normal for cereals over the northern part of France."
Alexis Pouyé, the managing director of ODA’s UK operations, said: "Wheat we thought was dead was actually not."
North vs south
ODA, which has raised to 32.2m tonnes from 31m tonnes its forecast for the wheat harvest, forecast the national yield coming in 11.5% below last year’s. Analysts at FranceAgriMer, the official farm office, and consultancy Agritel have pegged the decline at 13%.
"Analyses of the first cuts are reporting high protein [levels], of 12-13%, and specific weights also higher than normal," ODA added.
The trend of improved crops further north had already been reflected in rapeseed, for which French output looked like coming in at 4.8m tonnes.
"The further north the harvest goes, the better the crop is," Mr Pouyé told Agrimoney.com.
Winter vs spring
In winter barley, results from the first two-thirds of the harvest showed yields down 12.5%, and with some 85-90% of malting grain looking like making the grade.
However, winter barley was "significantly less affected the dry spring", Mr Pouyé said.
"Spring barley might prove to have been more effected."