Rapeseed gets relief from rain but EU crop still set to shrink

PARIS (Reuters) - Rain brought some relief to European Union rapeseed crops this month, but analysts still expect this year’s harvest to be the lowest in more than a decade after drought and insect attacks.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer plows next to a rapeseed field, near the Mont Saint-Michel 11th century abbey, in Ardevon, Normandy, France April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Grain industry association Coceral estimated this week that 2019 EU rapeseed production would reach 17.9 million tonnes, down around 2 million tonnes from last year.

Other forecasters anticipate a similar EU volume, which would be the lowest since at least 2007.

“The rain is a factor that can give the rapeseed crops a bit of a boost. But rapeseed has suffered so much this season that it won’t make a huge difference to the situation,” Nathan Cordier of consultancy Agritel said.

“The EU crop looks like it will be under 18 million tonnes.”

In France, Coceral expects the rapeseed crop to fall to 4 million tonnes from 4.9 million last year and some traders see production dropping below the 4 million mark.

The farm ministry, which will give a first production forecast next month, estimates that the rapeseed area has fallen 19% from last year to 1.31 million hectares.

The French area decline could be even bigger after insect attacks in spring along with unseasonable frosts led farmers to make late decisions to replace rapeseed with maize (corn), analysts said.

And although recent rain in Germany was welcome for rapeseed, lower production was still expected.

“Heavy rain this week has fallen in the driest regions and dryness worries have gone for now,” one grains analyst said.

“Nationally rapeseed is looking in decent condition and higher crop yields are expected. But this will not be enough to compensate for the huge cut in planted area and the harvest will with certainty be smaller this year.”

The main winter rapeseed crop will fall 17.1% percent on the year to 3.04 million tonnes, the farm cooperatives association estimated earlier this month, as it trimmed its previous outlook.

In Poland, recent rain also relieved concern about dryness, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“There is still hope that this year’s crop may be slightly bigger than last year’s 2.3 million tonnes and reach about 2.4 million tonnes,” Sabaranski said.

“It should be noted that winterkill this year was minimal, which gives the crop some advantage.”

In Britain, widespread damage from insects has contributed to a sharp area decrease.

“The cabbage stem flea beetle has decimated a lot of crops,” Jack Watts, Chief Combinable Crops Advisor with the National Farmers Union, said, adding in some counties harvested area could be down as much as 50%.

Crops that remain, however, appear in reasonable shape although more rain is needed, Watts said.

Last year, the UK harvested 2.1 million tonnes of rapeseed.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Valerie Parent in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London; Editing by Alexander Smith