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EU grain crops seen withstanding cold spell

A colder than usual spell in parts of Europe is not expected to cause much harm to winter grains and may benefit crops in France after a very mild autumn, analysts said.

In France, the European Union’s biggest grain grower, sub-zero lows have not been severe enough to threaten wheat, barley and rapeseed, and a steady drop in temperatures since last month gave plants time to adjust.

Crops had raced ahead in growth during the warmest October on record, leaving them vulnerable to later cold snaps.

“This cold weather will allow a decent hardening of crops and let them go into winter dormancy,” Catherine Cauchard, head of cereal crop monitoring at farm office FranceAgriMer, said.

Nearly all winter wheat and barley were in good condition by Dec. 5, according to FranceAgriMer’s most recent crop report, reflecting regular rain and mild weather during autumn.

Growing conditions in France have improved markedly since summer, when drought slashed maize yields and hampered rapeseed sowing.

Rapeseed was now also in good shape and not expected to suffer either from the cold spell.

“Given the situation at the end of the summer, we’re pretty satisfied with a rapeseed area that held up and which has well-established crops,” Afsaneh Lellahi of oilseed institute Terres Inovia said.

French farmers have increased soft wheat, winter barley and rapeseed sowings from the previous harvest, the farm ministry estimated on Tuesday.

In Germany, frost as deep as minus-10 to minus-14 degrees Celsius in central and eastern zones this week may pose risks to barley, which is less resistant to cold than wheat and rapeseed.

“There has been very little snow cover this week and I think the cold snap could have caused some damage to winter barley, but winter wheat and rapeseed appears all right so far,” one German grains analyst said.

“It is too early to assess if the damage is serious enough to have an impact on the barley harvest.”

Germany’s winter wheat sowed area for the 2023 crop should be little changed from 2.8 million hectares harvested in 2022, while winter rapeseed is seen up 4-5% at 1.13 million hectares, the analyst estimated.

In Poland, crop risks were also seen as limited.

“Presently, it is hard to say what winterkill may have been brought by the recent cold snap,” said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

Snow cover was adequate in the east, south, and centre of the country, and a rebound in temperatures forecast for next week should limit exposure to frosts for crops lacking snow protection in the west and north, he said.

Poland’s winter wheat planted area for 2023 should be over 2.4 million hectares, against 2.3 million harvested in 2022, he estimated.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London; Editing by emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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