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Worse Than Expected French Barley Crop Raises Concern Over Wheat

Worse Than Expected French Barley Crop Raises Concern Over Wheat

The ongoing winter barley harvest in France, the European Union’s largest grain grower, is showing worse than expected yields after poor weather hurt crops, raising additional concerns for the upcoming wheat crop.

Wet weather and soggy fields in France since the autumn delayed plantings, hurt plant development and increased crop disease, prompting observers to regularly cut their grain crop estimates.

The French farm ministry, which is due to update its forecasts on Tuesday (9 July), last month put the winter barley crop at 8.6 million tonnes, down 11% on the previous year. This was due to a fall both in area and in yield, with the latter projected at 6.73 metric tonnes per hectare (t/ha).

But the winter barley harvest now at about 50% of the expected area in France, has shown yields well below that level, farmers and analysts said.

French consultancy Agritel expects winter barley yields at levels between the poor harvests of 2016 and 2020 when they stood at 5.57 t/ha and 5.46 t/ha respectively. This would put the crop at around 7 million tons, down about 27% from 9.66 million in 2023.

“As the harvest advances people are progressively cutting their forecasts,” said Arthur Portier, senior consultant at Agritel and a farmer himself.

Winter barley is the third largest grain crop in France after soft wheat and maize.

Soft Wheat

The poor barley results are raising concerns for the soft wheat harvest that is just kicking off, due to a strong correlation between winter barley and soft wheat yields.

“It’s not looking good for wheat yields either and there are also major concerns about wheat quality,” a French trader said, pointing to frequent rainfall in several parts of the country that could generate quality problems.

Crop institute Arvalis and grain industry group Intercereales on Friday (5 July) forecast that this year’s soft wheat harvest in France would show a yield at an eight-year low.

Meanwhile farm office FranceAgriMer said soft wheat ratings had deteriorated in the last week of June with only 58% of the crop in good or excellent condition.

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