Heatwave poses risks for French, Spanish wheat as EU harvest nears
PARIS, June 17 (Reuters) - An exceptionally early heatwave in France and Spain may further stress wheat crops after a dry spring though an expected easing in temperature and showers across the region this month should avert large crop losses, analysts and growers said.
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Most analysts have been anticipating lower wheat production in the European Union this year after record 2021 crops in Romania and Bulgaria and following a dry spring including in top producer France.
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"It's an extra risk given that we're coming out of a dry spring," Aurelien Blary, crop analyst with Strategie Grains said. "We're expecting some further loss of yield potential."
Analysts have been projecting France's soft wheat crop, excluding durum, at 33-34 million tonnes, down from 35.5 million last year as they factor in less sowing and mixed yield potential.
The heatwave, due to ease from Sunday, was seen posing the biggest threat in central France where crops are in their final grain-filling stage.
That could exacerbate yield variations after early June showers helped some crops but missed some parched zones.
"The situation is extremely varied. With recent storms, you had one village getting soaked and the next one not at all," said Francois Jacques, deputy secretary general of French wheat growers group AGPB.
The hot spell could worsen an expected drop in wheat production this year in Spain and also in Italy.
In Romania, Agriculture Minister Adrian Chesnoiu told Reuters this week that adverse weather and higher production costs would push the harvest below last year's bumper level of 11.3 million tonnes.
But he said the country would have ample volumes to export.
In Bulgaria, which like Romania exports via the Black Sea, a drop from last year's 7.1 million tonnes was expected but recent rain should help limit the decline.
"We expect a good harvest, but you should note that last year we had a record-high crop," said Kostadin Kostadinov, chair of Bulgaria's National Association of Grain Producers.
In central Europe, a dry spring could also cap yield potential in Germany and Poland, Strategie Grains' Blary said, adding that western Germany was less affected while June rain had improved conditions in Poland.
Further north, dryness was less pronounced.
In Britain, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) last week projected a crop of 14.95 million tonnes, up from 13.99 million in 2021 and a three-year high.
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