November 29, 2019 / 1:29 PM / 12 days ago

Wet autumn to cut wheat area in France, UK in setback for next harvest

* France also facing risk of fungus in rain-delayed maize crop

* Spring barley may offset drop in UK’s winter barley area

* Sowing conditions decent in Germany, Poland

PARIS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Heavy autumn rain is expected to lead to a fall in wheat sowings in France and Britain, raising early doubts over prospects for next year’s harvest in Europe, analysts said.

After drought hampered drilling of rapeseed in late summer, a shift to wet weather from October has disrupted the subsequent wheat and winter barley sowing campaigns, with French and British farmers facing particularly soggy field conditions.

“It’s now a given that there will be a significant decrease in wheat area in France. There is wheat that won’t be sown at all and sown crop that is under water,” Nathan Cordier of consultancy Agritel said.

“We’re looking at a similar situation in Britain.”

In France, nationwide rainfall in France for October and November is expected to be 70% above the seasonal average, according to public weather service Meteo France.

Farmers had sown 80% of the expected area of common wheat, or soft wheat, for next year’s harvest by Nov. 25, with sowing running a week behind the usual pace, according to farm office FranceAgriMer.

Wheat crop ratings also declined sharply for the second week in a row, suggesting a drier spell last week brought limited benefit to waterlogged fields.

The wet weather is also expected to trim the winter barley area in France, while a further concern in the European Union’s top grain producer is the rain-delayed maize harvest, with traders reporting mycotoxin fungus in some zones.

MORE RAIN NEEDED IN POLAND

In Britain, an initial survey of sowing intentions by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) projected a 9% drop in wheat area in 2020 to a seven-year low.

For barley, a forecast 12% drop for winter barley was set against a 28% jump in spring barley area as farmers replace unsuccessful winter crop fields.

In contrast, autumn rain was not seen as posing significant risks in Germany, with winter grain sowing and maize harvesting being wrapped up.

“Germany has not suffered the sort of problems seen in France and the UK,” one German analyst said.

“Winter grain sowings have also been completed apart from the final areas to be planted after the sugar beet crop. Overall I think people are quite satisfied with the way sowings went this year.”

Winter wheat and barley areas are likely to be stable, he said.

Autumn rain did not hinder sowing in Poland either and more moisture was actually needed, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“Warm October and November were conducive to winter crop vegetation, but more precipitation is needed and would be welcome,” he said.

Most of Poland’s maize crop has now been harvested apart from a few isolated regions, Sabaranski added. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Forrest Crellin in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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