July 19, 2019 / 10:39 AM / a month ago

EU heading for large wheat crop despite early summer heatwave

* Bigger crops in France, Germany, UK, Poland

* Baltic region also looking better

* Early summer heatwave not a disaster

HAMBURG, July 19 (Reuters) - The European Union is set for a larger wheat harvest this summer as a heatwave in late June which wilted some crops had a less severe impact than initially feared, traders and industry officials said on Friday.

“The heatwave caused a late crop loss of a couple of million tonnes but overall we are still facing a big crop and big export supplies in the leading producers France, Germany, Britain and Poland,” one German trader said.

EU wheat was devastated by drought in summer 2018 but weather this year was better.

In the EU’s largest producer France, farmers had harvested 33% of the soft wheat crop by July 15, up from 9% a week earlier although behind the 64% done a year ago.

“In France, the harvest is looking better than expected. Yields are very good despite the heatwave,” one trader said.

After production expectations were trimmed following the late-June heatwave with record temperatures, decent harvest yields were encouraging market participants to raise forecasts again to 38 million tonnes or higher, up from around 34 million last year.

Wheat protein readings were generally at 11% or above, marking an improvement from early harvesting on the west coast that showed some protein content below the 11% minimum usually required for milling markets, traders said.

In second largest producer Germany, the crop will increase 17.7% on the year to 23.85 million tonnes, farm cooperatives forecast.

“The June heatwave meant the loss of about 850,000 tonnes of German wheat but despite that the crop is looking good and the loss is not regarded as serious,” a German trader said.

IN GOOD SHAPE

Harvesting in Britain is expected to start in 10 days to two weeks with crops generally in good shape.

Production is expected to top last year’s crop of 14 million tonnes. “I think 15 (million tonnes) is a prudent estimate with expectations that it could go higher,” said Jack Watts, chief combinable crops advisor at the National Farmers Union.

Crop quality will largely hinge on weather in coming weeks.

Early harvesting has also started in Poland and the crop will increase 8-9% from 2018 to 10.7 million tonnes, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“The harvest is likely to kick off next week since the weather is going to be conducive to grain threshing with hot and sunny conditions forecast,” he said.

Baltic Sea producers, particularly hit by last year’s drought, are expecting a major harvest comeback.

Sweden’s wheat harvest is expected to double this year to about 3.2 million tonnes, said Mikael Jeppsson, head of grains at giant Swedish farm cooperative Lantmannen.

“The crop should be large enough to enable Sweden to resume wheat exports,” Jeppsson said.

In Lithuania, now a noted player in global export markets, the crop could jump 35% to around 4.2 million tonnes, according to Lithuanian trade estimates.

“It is difficult to say about wheat quality for the moment, because the harvest will start only during the weekend,” one Lithuanian trader said. (Reporting by Michael Hogan, Gus Trompiz and Nigel Hunt; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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