November 9, 2012 / 5:01 PM / in 5 years

Rain may curb wheat area in France, Britain

* Heavy rain could cut UK wheat area after rapeseed fall

* Wet October may cost some wheat hectares in France

* But rain too late to save some parched French rapeseed

* German conditions favourable, rapeseed area rise seen

By Gus Trompiz

PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Recent heavy rains could prevent some wheat from being sown in France and Britain after some rapeseed area was lost in the two major European crop producers, adding further uncertainty to the global supply outlook, analysts said.

Germany, however, has seen favourable sowing conditions for both crops, with rapeseed notably expected to see a jump in area after a difficult sowing campaign a year ago.

The rain-delayed grain sowing in France and Britain adds further pressure on the global supply network following adverse weather in leading producers from the United States to Australia.

In France, the EU’s top grain producer and exporter, a very wet October has hampered sowing of winter wheat and barley, with talk of some farmers abandoning plans to sow wheat.

“The feedback we’ve had is that in a zone around the Loire estuary (in western France), people have given up on some wheat sowings,” Paul Gaffet of grains consultancy Offre & Demande Agricole said.

Average rainfall in France last month was 20 percent above normal levels and the northwest of the country was among those regions that saw precipitation between 50 and 100 percent above average, weather forecaster Meteo France said.

Analysts had initially expected France’s soft wheat area to recover hectares lost during severe frost last winter and match, or slightly exceed, the 5 million hectares sown a year ago.

It was too early to quantify any losses due to wet weather and in northerly regions farmers were also used to sowing wheat late following the sugar beet harvest, Gaffet said.

Sowing has accelerated since late October and, as of Monday, 80 percent of winter wheat and 93 percent of winter barley had been sown, according to farm office FranceAgriMer.

Recent rain has helped rapeseed plants that endured dry conditions during the late-summer sowing campaign but the moisture was too late to prevent some area being lost.

Analysts had initially anticipated a rise in France’s rapeseed area on the back of high market prices, but ODA said its follow-up survey on emerged crops suggested an area fall.

“In the Centre region, rapeseed spent a month in the ground without being able to emerge because there wasn’t enough moisture,” Gaffet said.

SUCCESSFUL SOWING IN GERMANY

The situation was more difficult in Britain where farmers have been grappling with persistent rain since the summer that already spoiled the wheat harvest and has since disrupted sowing of both rapeseed and wheat.

The winter wheat area looks set to fall, analyst Jack Watts of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority said.

“We definitely are going to be down but it is too early to put numbers on that because there are still opportunities for farmers to plant the crop,” he said, adding, however, that the optimal planting window had closed.

Watts said the weather over the next few weeks would play a key role in determining the extent to the decline in area.

“They (farmers) will carry on trying to get it in the ground right up until the New Year, enthused by the strong forward prices,” he added.

If farmers are unable to get winter wheat into the ground then spring barley is the most likely alternative crop.

Rapeseed area in Britain is also expected to be lower with a late wheat harvest this summer limiting opportunities to plant the oilseed crop which goes into the ground earlier than wheat.

UK rapeseed area has risen sharply in recent years, reaching 755,000 hectares for this summer’s crop, up 7.2 percent from the prior season.

“We’re unlikely to see the year-on-year growth in oilseed rape area we’ve been used to seeing in recent years. We should be relatively high but certainly down,” he said.

In contrast, German winter grain and rapeseed sowings have progressed well without major problems, analysts said.

“The sowing programme has now been finished apart from a few minor areas where the sugar beet and silo maize harvests have not yet been completed,” one analyst said.

“I think the drilling work went without significant difficulties in generally favourable weather.”

A sharp rise in rapeseed plantings is expected for the 2013 crop, the wheat area is expected to be unchanged or slightly higher, they said. Plantings of spring grains and lower value feeds such as barley could be reduced.

“For the previous two seasons Germany had very poor rapeseed planting conditions and so rapeseed planting intentions could not be carried out,” another analyst said.

German farmers are likely to plant 1.45 million hectares of rapeseed for the 2013 crop, up 11 percent on the year, German oilseeds analyst Oil World forecasts.

A reduction in spring grains is expected for next year after the 2012 spring grain area had been greatly expanded by resowing of fields damaged by deep frosts in January and February. (Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London and Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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