HAMBURG (Reuters) - Welcome rain in the four largest European Union wheat producers raised hopes for a good harvest this summer after a dry spring sparked fears of a repeat of last year’s drought-damaged crop, experts said on Friday.
“Some EU wheat was on a knife-edge as spring weather suddenly turned very dry and soil is still unusually parched after last summer’s historic drought and heatwave,” one German analyst said. “The rain caused sighs of relief.”
In the EU’s largest producer France, wheat is mostly in good shape after widespread rain this month reduced dryness and maintained decent yield potential for this summer’s harvest.
After falling during April, crop ratings estimated by farm office FranceAgriMer have stabilized, with 79% of French soft wheat rated in good or excellent condition in the last two weeks.
“The situation is looking good,” said Catherine Cauchard, head of FranceAgriMer’s cereal crop monitoring service. “Crops have made the most of the rain which has been very beneficial.”
Positive field conditions have raised hopes of a large 2019 harvest in France, after farmers expanded the soft wheat area by nearly 3% from last year.
In second largest producer Germany, the 2019 wheat harvest will increase 19.8% on the year to 24.28 million tonnes after massive drought damage last year, German farm cooperatives estimate.
Subsoil reserves remain depleted after last summer’s drought, leaving wheat vulnerable to damage from dry weather.
“Rain came in the nick of time to prevent serious dryness damage to crops,” said one German grains analyst. “But more rain is still needed and farmers would be pleased if it rained every week.”
In third largest producer, the United Kingdom, the crop outlook has been boosted by recent rain and more showers are forecast in coming days.
“Last month, we were concerned about a repeat of 2018 but if forecast rains materialize then we would likely see an above average crop,” said Benjamin Bodart, director at CRM AgriCommodities.
CRM AgriCommodities recently raised its British wheat crop forecast to 15.5 million tonnes from 15.1 million previously estimated and last year’s crop of 14.0 million tonnes.
In fourth largest producer Poland, recent heavy rain also reduced concern about the April drought, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.
“Further rains are forecast for next week, so a decent wheat crop is still very likely,” Sabaranski added.
Poland’s 2019 wheat crop will rise to 10.9 million tonnes from 9.7 million tonnes last year, Sabaranski estimates.
Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Louise Heavens