Weather Woes Drive French Grain Production to Lowest Since 2003

September 13, 2016 03:51 PM

France couldn’t get the right weather for its crops this year. For wheat, it was too wet. For corn, too dry.

The country’s grain output will fall 24 percent this year to 55.4 million metric tons, the French Agriculture Ministry forecast Monday. Flooding drove soft-wheat yields to the lowest since the early 1980s and dryness means farmers will gather the smallest corn crop in 13 years, ministry data showed.

France is the European Union’s biggest wheat producer and a drop in output means many importing countries in North Africa and the Middle East including Morocco and Algeria will need to buy their grain elsewhere. The nation is also the EU’s top corn grower, meaning imports into the bloc could potentially rise.

"Winter crops suffered from mid-May from lack of light and heat. Excessive rain, especially in the Paris basin, fostered proliferation of insects, diseases, fungi and pests," the ministry said on its website. "On the contrary, in July and August, rainfall was very weak."

Dry Weather

Soft-wheat production will fall 31 percent from a year earlier to 28.2 million tons, the ministry said, cutting its forecast for a second time. Corn output including seeds was forecast at 12.8 million tons, down 7.1 percent from a year earlier and the lowest since the 2003-04 season.

Dry weather has dominated the French corn belt over the past 60 days, according to Speedwell Weather. That prompted crops office FranceAgriMer to downgrade crop conditions, with 55 percent of corn considered in a good or very-good state, down from 60 percent a week earlier. About 40 percent of the French corn areas are irrigated.

French corn production will be 19 percent lower than the five-year average, with farmers having planted an area 6 percent smaller, according to the ministry. A rain deficit for a second summer has cut yields by 9 percent compared with the five-year average, according to the report.

Other highlights of the report:

  • Rapeseed farmers seen harvesting 4.7 million tons, down 12 percent from a year earlier.
  • Barley output seen falling 22 percent to 10.1 million tons.
  • Durum wheat production seen down 19 percent to 1.5 million tons.
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