June 1, 2018 / 3:02 PM / 3 months ago

Dry weather may curb promising EU wheat crop

PARIS (Reuters) - Warm, dry weather in the European Union has boosted wheat crops after a damp, chilly start to spring, but dryness is now a risk in some zones as wheat enters a key month for determining yields before the summer harvest, analysts said.

Ears of wheat are seen in a wheat field in Rohr, near Strasbourg, France, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

“At the moment, the overall situation is reasonable. We haven’t had much rain recently but there are moisture reserves,” Gautier Le Molgat of consultancy Agritel said. “It’s clear that western Europe is looking better than the east.”

The warm spells, allied with moisture from the wet winter, notably benefited crops in countries like France and Spain, with the latter set to recover from a drought-hit 2017 harvest.

In France, 80 percent of soft wheat was in good or excellent condition, according to farm office FranceAgriMer.

Thunderstorms in France amidst hot weather may have contrasting effects.

“Given the high temperatures, the moisture is rather welcome but the intensity of the storms, whether or not with hailstones, can have an impact locally,” Jean-Paul Bordes of crop institute Arvalis said.

Ears of wheat are seen in a wheat field in Reitwiller, near Strasbourg, France, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

“With hail, crop damage can vary from zero to 100 percent.”

Traders are expecting soft wheat production of 37-38 million tonnes, above last year’s 36.6 million and higher than the average of the past five years.

Harvest prospects are also promising in Britain.

“Winter wheat is in very good condition. It is full of potential at the moment,” said Benjamin Bodart, director at CRM AgriCommodities.

“Three or four weeks ago our clients were talking about an average crop, now they are talking about a good crop.”

As in France, there were some concerns about fusarium disease because of the mix of hot weather and showers.

CRM’s current outlook sees the UK crop between 14.65 million and 15.25 million tonnes, while the International Grains Council last week put the crop at 14.6 million tonnes, slightly down from last year’s 14.8 million.

Slideshow (4 Images)

In Germany, dryness is starting to cause concern.

“The main export regions in the north and east are suffering,” one German grains analyst said.

“A very rainy June would be needed for crops to catch up, and this is not currently forecast.”

Germany’s 2018 wheat crop will fall 2 percent to 23.98 million tonnes, the association of German farm cooperatives forecast in mid-May.

In Poland, some regions like the northwest also badly need rain, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“If there is no rain in the first 10 days of June, then the condition of crops, especially spring grains, may substantially deteriorate,” Sabaranski said.

He estimated that Poland’s 2018 wheat crop would fall about 8 percent on the year to about 10.7 million tonnes with both area and yields declining.

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

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