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France’s Lavish Wheat Fields Fuel Expectations of Large Harvest

Farmers across France are calling the upcoming harvest one of the best they’ve seen in years.

The wheat fields from Dijon to Reims are bright green, standing tall and getting ready to be harvested starting from next month. After a cold and long winter, the weather in France took a turn for the better. It got warmer, rainier and yield prospects are improving, farmers and cooperatives say.

The country will probably produce 37 million to 38 million metric tons of wheat this year, according to estimates from InVivo, a union of grain cooperatives. If it reaches 38 million tons, that would be the third-highest year in data from the French Agriculture Ministry going back to 1993.

“It could be a good crop in terms of quantity, much better than last year, much better than the last two,” Christoph Bueren, the chairman of Vivescia, one of France’s top grain cooperatives, said in an interview in Reims.

The good growing conditions in France are a contrast to Russia, U.S., Australia and Canada, where dry weather left fields parched. Benchmark wheat futures have rallied 22 percent this year on concern that global stockpiles will fall for the first time in six years.

The weather now is good for crop development, with intervals of rain and sun, according to Francois Farges, the deputy director at Cerevia, a union of grain cooperatives. It’s warmer, but not excessively hot, and temperatures are around the 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), which is optimal, Vivescia’s Bueren said.

French wheat is currently at the filling stage, meaning that each day that temperatures exceed 25 degrees Celsius will lead to a drop in yield equivalent to 150 kilograms per hectare, according to crop researcher Arvalis.

There are still some risks. Conditions were favorable for fungal diseases including fusarium, which can hurt yields and produce chemicals known as mycotoxins that are poisonous for humans or livestock.

Cerevia says it’s keeping an eye on the situation, but hasn’t spotted any serious diseases in the Burgundy region, where it operates. Fusarium was found in some crops near Reims, said Frederic Terzieff of Promo-Vert, which studies crop diseases for companies that make products including pesticides and fertilizers.

Better crop yields mean the protein content will probably return to normal levels of 11 to 11.5 percent, according to InVivo. Last year, French wheat had protein of 12 percent to 12.5 percent, allowing exporters to sell to markets such as Saudi Arabia for the first time ever.

“In all probabilities, if the yields stay good, we will have lower protein levels than last year,” Philippe Kerbidi, a trader at InVivo, said last week.

“When you look at the fields, even if you are not an agronomist like me, it’s green, it’s regular, it’s nice,” Kerbidi added. “The crop size is more than decent.”
Source: Bloomberg

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