French and Italian farmers count cost of storms and drought

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PARIS/ROME, June 6 (Reuters) - Farms across France were hit by heavy hail and fierce storms over the weekend, the National Farmers' Union Federation (FNSEA) said on Monday, while their counterparts in Italy warned of the impact of drought on crop yields.

Hail, strong winds and torrential rain caused damage in nearly 65 departments of France, affecting wheat as well as fruit crops and vineyards, the FNSEA said in a statement.

"The damage is very significant, with some farms seeing 100% of their crop affected," the statement said.

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The wheat harvest is approaching in France, the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter.

Northern Italian regions such as Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta and Trentino Alto Adige have also been hit by storms but the main concern in Italy is drought, with another week of high temperatures forecast across much of the country.

Italy has received only half the usual rainfall levels so far in 2022, according to agricultural lobby Coldiretti, which estimates the cost of lost production at close to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) and said the Po Valley was hardest hit.

"The most affected crops have been rice, with a drop of 10,000 hectares, and all other cereals, from wheat to maize, with a forecast reduction in yields," Coldiretti said in a statement to Reuters.

Damage to the wheat crop in western Europe could add pressure to already strained global supply owing to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has boosted prices because both countries are major wheat producers.

Fruit crops and vineyards also suffered serious damage from the French storms, with agriculture minister Marc Fesneau due to visit winegrowers in the Gironde and Gers regions on Monday.

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Reporting by Layli Foroudi and Keith Weir Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman

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