Mild Winter Puts European Wheat on Track for 3rd-Biggest Harvest

April 21, 2015 03:04 PM
Mild Winter Puts European Wheat on Track for 3rd-Biggest Harvest

A mild winter and just enough rain have left wheat fields across the European Union on track for the third-largest harvest ever.

Farmers may harvest 147.7 million metric tons of wheat in 2015, about 6 percent below last year’s record production, based on the average estimate from seven analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg.

“It’s not bullish for the market to know that production will be this high,” said Leopold Michallet, a consultant at Agritel, a Paris-based farm adviser. “We’re declining from a very good year, so regardless we remain at a high level.”

If the forecasts hold true, it will be a second year that good growing conditions produce a bumper wheat crop for Europe. Bigger supplies and a weakening currency have made the EU a top source of wheat for international buyers and the region is exporting the grain at the fastest pace in at least a decade, according to data from the European Commission.

Futures in Paris fell 8 percent this year, about half the decline of contracts in Chicago, the global benchmark.

Globally, wheat production is expected to fall 1.4 percent next season and stockpiles will stay near a 15-year high, data from the International Grains Council show.

In France, the EU’s largest grower, about 92 percent of wheat was in good or very good condition in the week ended April 13, compared with 75 percent a year ago, according to data from crop office FranceAgriMer.


Spring Weather

“We didn’t have much of a winter, and the spring has been smooth, with rain as well as dry periods to work the fields,” said Edouard Proffit, who planted 130 hectares (321 acres) of soft wheat on his farm in Charny, northeast of Paris.

France’s wheat fields received an average of 85 millimeters (3.35 inches) of rain in the 60 days through April 18, more than Germany and the U.K., World Ag Weather data show.

EU output of soft wheat, the variety used to make bread flour, may fall 6.2 percent to 140.1 million tons, the second-highest on record, according to the survey. In France, the soft- wheat crop is expected to approach the all-time high from 1998, increasing 1.6 percent to 38.1 million tons.

In Germany, the EU’s second-biggest wheat grower, total production may fall 7.2 percent to 25.8 million tons, based on the average of eight estimates. The decline may allow France to take more of the international grain trade, particularly in sales to Algeria, according to Paul Gaffet, an analyst at Offre & Demande Agricole in Bourges.

It’s still early in the season to predict the harvest, said Francois Luguenot, head of grain analysis at InVivo, the biggest French wheat exporter. About 90 percent of crop development depends on weather conditions from May 15 to July 15, he said by phone from Paris.

“I remain cautious, we still have three months to go,” Proffit said. “If it is a record, all the better.”



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