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France lifts wheat crop estimate again, sees big sugar beet harvest

France’s farm ministry on Tuesday increased its estimate of this year’s soft wheat harvest for the second month in a row, underlining a rebound in yields after last year’s weather-hit crop in the European Union’s biggest grain grower.

The ministry pegged soft wheat production at 37.8 million tonnes, 1 million tonnes above last month’s estimate and now 37.1 percent higher than the 2016 volume.

This would also be the third-largest French soft wheat crop on record after 40.8 million tonnes in 2015 and 38.2 million in 1998, the ministry said in a crop report.

French 2017 rapeseed production was revised upwards to 5.5 million tonnes, from 5.2 million estimated last month and 15.6 percent above 2016 output, putting it close to a record level of 5.6 million seen in 2009.

Total barley production, including both spring and winter varieties, was unchanged from last month’s estimate at 12.3 million tonnes, confirming a 17 percent rise compared with last year.

The latest estimates confirmed that French crops had withstood adverse crop weather, including late frosts, drought and heatwaves, better than last year.

“With the exception of some regions (Lorraine) and very localised cases, yields for straw cereals and rapeseed have come back to, or surpassed, historical averages, allowing the soft wheat, durum and rapeseed harvests to reach very high levels,” the ministry said.

For later-harvested crops such as sugar beet and maize, the ministry also said there appeared to have been a limited impact from dry conditions, although its crop estimates were below those of other crop observers.

In its first estimate of the 2017 sugar beet crop, the ministry forecast that the country would harvest 40.5 million tonnes of sugar beet, up 16.7 percent from 2016.

The expected rise in production was almost entirely due to a jump in the planted area to 472,000 hectares from 405,000 hectares last year, as farmers anticipated the end of European Union production quotas in the upcoming season.

The average sugar beet yield was expected to be close to last year’s level at 85.8 tonnes per hectare (t/ha).

The crop estimate was below that of French growers group CGB, which expects the average sugar beet yield to rise to 91.8 t/ha this year.

The ministry left almost unchanged its estimate of 2017 grain maize production at 12.75 million tonnes, which would be up 8.9 percent from last year.

Market participants are more optimistic, seeing the prospect of a grain maize crop at 13.5-14 million tonnes after summer rain eased the moisture deficit.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Valerie Parent and Gus Trompiz; Editing by Sybille de La Hamaideand Louise Heavens)

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