* Timing of rains minimises potential threat to crops
* French crop condition ratings better than last season
* Snow cover protects crops in Germany from cold snap
By Nigel Hunt
LONDON, Feb 20 Wheat crops in western Europe
appear in generally good condition despite heavy rains and
flooding in parts of Britain and France, analysts said on
Parts of Britain have been under water since December after
a series of unusually heavy storms inundated large swathes of
the British countryside.
"There may be some localised impact (on crops from the
floods) but overall it will be fairly minimal," said Jack Watts,
senior analyst at Britain's Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA).
"It is not a nationwide problem at this point."
Rains in the run-up to Britain's wheat harvest in 2012
severely reduced the quality of that season's crop.
Britain received a further drenching during the autumn of
2012 which wrecked autumn plantings and led to the smallest
wheat crop in more than a decade last year.
This year's deluge, however, has come at a less critical
time of year for crops.
"Better a wet January than a wet July," Watts said.
Britain should harvest a much larger wheat crop this summer
with plantings rebounding due to generally favourable conditions
"The expectation is there will be a much more normal area of
wheat in the UK for the coming harvest," Watts said.
An HGCA survey issued in November projected a 22 percent
rise in UK wheat area for this year's harvest.
In France, the European Union's largest wheat producer,
crops are also generally progressing well although excessively
wet weather this winter in western and central France could hurt
yields in those areas.
"Plants have developed thanks to winter warmth but the
excess water sometimes hampers growth, which creates diverse
situations depending on the type of soil," Jean-Paul Bordes from
Arvalis technical institute said.
The wet conditions could impact final yields and put
well-developed crops at risk of late frost damage, Bordes said.
The lack of cold weather may also have favoured pest
proliferation with first symptoms showing up in some fields.
Still, French farm office FranceAgriMer said last week that
75 percent of the domestic soft wheat crop was in good or
excellent condition by Feb. 10, up from 66 percent at the same
stage last season. [ID: nL5N0LJ3KY]
In the EU's second largest wheat producer Germany, both
wheat and other winter grain plants are developing well with the
winter mild and Germany not suffering from excessive rain seen
in some other countries.
"Plants in most German regions continue to display a good
condition," Germany's largest grain trader Toepfer International
said in a report.
"In late January, temperatures in some parts of Germany fell
to under minus 15 Celsius, but sufficient snow cover was
available (to protect crops) in the eastern German regions hit,"
(Additional reporting by Valerie Parent in Paris and Michael
Hogan in Hamburg, editing by David Evans)