July 19, 2019 / 7:34 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-French soft wheat harvest progresses, maize conditions worsen

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PARIS, July 19 (Reuters) - French farmers had harvested 33% of this year’s soft wheat crop by July 15, up from 9% a week earlier, farm office FranceAgriMer said on Friday.

Harvest progress however remained below the pace seen last year, when 64% of the crop had been gathered by the same stage, FranceAgriMer said in a weekly report.

Conditions for soft wheat, France’s main cereal crop, were stable with 73% of crops rated good or excellent, unchanged from a week earlier. That compared with 71% a year ago.

Traders and analysts are expecting a large soft wheat harvest in France, with crops seen escaping significant damage from a record-breaking heatwave in late June.

For winter barley, usually the first major cereal crop to be harvested in France, field work was winding down with 97% of the crop cut by Monday, compared with 80% a week earlier and slightly below 99% a year ago, FranceAgriMer said.

An estimated 30% of the spring barley crop had been harvested, against 12% a week earlier and 31% at the same stage last year.

Spring barley ratings, which had fallen sharply since the late-June heatwave, stabilised at 72% good or excellent, unchanged from a week earlier.

However, conditions for grain maize, which is not harvested until late summer or autumn and is going through crucial growth stages, worsened again last week.

An estimated 74% of grain maize was rated good/excellent against 78%, although that was still above 71% at the same point last year when crops also endured drought.

Deepening drought in parts of France is straining summer crops like maize and sugar beet, and a hot spell forecast for next week could add to stress on plants.

Widespread water restrictions, including for farms, are also affecting conditions for French maize, which is often irrigated. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Jan Harvey)

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