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Europe's Grain Farms Await Rain Break After Damp Winter

By Reuters
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Europe's Grain Farms Await Rain Break After Damp Winter

Grain growers in western Europe will need rain to ease this month to progress with spring planting, after a wet February maintained soggy field conditions that have already put the region on course for a smaller wheat harvest, analysts said.

Heavy rain since autumn is expected to have reduced sharply wheat planting in France, Germany and Britain, and the damp end to winter has raised doubts over whether farmers will be able to switch as much as area as anticipated to spring barley.

Wheat Volumes

"We have already lost some wheat volumes in France, Germany and Britain," Maxence Devillers, an analyst with Argus, said. "But the worst may be behind us and the weather forecast for the next two weeks could help improve things."

Weather charts showed relatively dry conditions in the week ahead in Germany and Britain though parts of France may stay wet.

In France, spring barley sowing has hardly advanced in the past month, while for earlier-sown wheat conditions are at their worst in four years, according to farm office FranceAgriMer.

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A drying out of fields could lead French farmers to extend spring barley planting beyond the optimal window that ends in mid-March, while persisting wetness would lead them to transfer some area to later-sown maize and sunflower, Devillers said.

In Britain, parts of southern England experienced their wettest February on record.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) late last year estimated Britain's wheat area would fall 3% this year and spring barley area would jump 11%, but the agency is doing a follow-up survey to re-assess the impact of heavy rain.

Weather Conditions

However, rain in Europe has varied within countries, with some zones are benefiting from moisture after drought in the past two years, while mild temperatures have spared crops from frost damage, according to analysts.

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"Overall, the spring sowing is going pretty well in Germany nationally, with problems concentrated in some northern regions," one German analyst said.

Weak prices for maize EMAc1 could favour planting of other spring crops.

"For spring sowings in Germany I would expect increased plantings of spring wheat and malting barley," the local analyst said.

In Poland, where wet conditions may delay slightly the start of spring planting in most regions, maize could also lose out, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

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"Due to a deep slide in maize prices this season, the area planted to maize this spring is likely to considerably decline, in favour of such grains as oats and barley, as the supply of these grains has been tight, and prices paid high," he said.

Elsewhere, winter rain has proved beneficial for crops by easing drought in Spain, Romania and Bulgaria, though moisture levels remained low in the east of Romania and Bulgaria, Argus' Devillers said.

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