Wheat crops in western Europe have benefited from rain in recent weeks, improving harvest prospects in top producers France, Germany and Britain after plants endured a prolonged dry spell and late frosts earlier in spring, analysts said.
Forecasters have been lowering their estimates for European Union cereal production to factor in previous adverse weather, with Spain seen bearing the brunt of losses after drought.
But rain in the past month has helped plant growth, even if crop watchers are cautious as wheat still has to go through crucial development phases before the summer harvest.
“We look like having a better EU wheat crop than last year although the situation is rather mixed,” Paul Gaffet of crop consultancy ODA Groupe said.
The EU is collectively the world’s biggest wheat producer, ahead of China. Last year’s EU wheat crop was reduced by the worst French harvest in three decades, which dragged EU soft wheat production down to about 134 million tonnes from a record 151 million in 2015.
For 2017 the European Commission on Thursday trimmed its soft wheat crop forecast by 600,000 tonnes to 141.3 million.
ODA has a lower outlook of about 138 million tonnes. This partly reflected caution over dryness in the Baltic states and uncertainty over damage in northeast France, Gaffet said.
For France traders and analysts are mostly anticipating a crop of 36-37 million tonnes, in a rebound from 28 million last year. Crop ratings as estimated by farm office FranceAgriMer broadly stabilised in May after falling sharply in April.
“Conditions have improved a lot on the western side of the country from Rouen down to Bordeaux,” Gaffet said. “The big question mark for us is the effect of very high temperatures in the northeast.”
A heatwave last week in France brought record temperatures for a month of May to some areas, and may have strained crops in the far northeast that missed out on much of the recent rain and were also hit by spring frost.
In Germany, there were also some dry zones but the country was on course for a decent sized crop.
“A wide area of the west still needs a lot more rain in the current key development stage,” one German grains analyst said.
“However, I do not regard the situation as serious as sufficient rain has fallen in the main grain regions in most of the country.”
Germany’s 2017 wheat crop will increase 1.6 percent on the year to 24.98 million tonnes, the country’s farm cooperatives association said on May 18.
In Britain, wheat was benefitting from a favourable mix of moisture and warm temperatures.
“Recent rain and warm weather have benefited crops. The first wheat crops are now flowering and the majority of crops look in good condition,” said analyst Sarah Wynn of crop consultants ADAS.