November 21, 2018 / 3:42 PM / a month ago

EU rapeseed sowings disrupted by drought, more imports possible

* Big cut in rapeseed sowings in Germany, France, UK

* No increase expected in Poland

* Crop outlook for 2019 already poor, more imports possible

HAMBURG, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A sharp cut in rapeseed sowings in the European Union’s main producers has raised industry fears of a smaller than expected 2019 crop and a larger import need.

Dry autumn weather caused big cuts in rapeseed sowings in the EU’s top producers Germany, France and Britain while in Poland sowings are only expected to be the same as last year.

“Even at this early stage of the season it looks like the EU could face a reduced rapeseed crop in 2019,” one German trader said. “I think the EU will need larger imports of rapeseed and other oilseeds such as soybeans to meet its needs in 2019.”

Rapeseed is the EU’s main oilseed for edible oil and biodiesel production. It is also used for animal feed.

In France, the EU’s largest rapeseed producer, sown area is expected to shrink by around a third for next year’s harvest after a drought-hit start to the growing season, said oilseed institute Terres Inovia.

Oilseed growers group FOP in November estimated drought would reduce France’s rapeseed area to around 1-1.1 million hectares in 2019 compared with 1.6 million in this year’s harvest.

That area projection was still being used by producers but with 1.1 million hectares increasingly seen as the maximum possible level, said Fabien Lagarde of Terres Inovia.

Germany’s winter rapeseed planted area for the 2019 harvest will be reduced by 18.1 percent on the year to around 1 million hectares, German oilseeds industry association UFOP estimates.

It is possible that another 100,000 hectares may have to be replanted, reducing Germany’s area to only 900,000 hectares, it said.

Britain’s rapeseed crop could be lower following a cut in planted area of eight to 10 percent to about 540,000 to 550,000 hectares, said Benjamin Bodart, director at CRM AgriCommodities. If confirmed, that would be the lowest area for rapeseed since at least 2003.

Bodart said the final crop would be heavily influenced by winter conditions and flea beetle larvae damage in the spring.

In Poland, sowings for the 2019 crop are likely to be not larger than the 710,000 hectares harvested in 2018, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

Lack of rain hit Polish sowings but the picture varies according to region, Sabaranski said.

In some Polish regions, the warm weather meant rapeseed has grown too rapidly, leading to concern plants would be vulnerable to winter frost damage. (Reporting by Michael Hogan, Valerie Parent and Nigel Hunt, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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