France is forecast to harvest 3.8 million tonnes of winter rapeseed this year, down 22% from 2018, the farm ministry said on Tuesday, confirming widespread expectations of a plunge in production following adverse growing weather.
The ministry's initial outlook for rapeseed production was more than 25% below the average of the past five years, it said in a crop report.
It was based on a forecast yield of 2.94 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), down from 3.06 t/ha last year and the lowest since 2007, along with an area of 1.31 million hectares, down from 1.61 million in 2018.
Smallest EU Harvest
Rapeseed production in France is made up almost entirely of winter crop, with the ministry estimating that just 2,000 hectares of spring rapeseed were sown this year.
A sharp fall in rapeseed production in France and elsewhere in western Europe has been widely anticipated after drought reduced the sown area, with analysts forecasting the smallest EU harvest in over a decade.
"With the exception of Normandy ... the crop situation is very poor," the farm ministry said of rapeseed.
"In addition to drought and then frosts that created problems for flowering and pod formation, there have also been flea beetle attacks."
Rapeseed is the EU's main oilseed crop and used to produce edible oil, biodiesel fuel and livestock feed.
The farm ministry projected this year's French winter barley production at 8.5 million tonnes.
That was up 4.6% from 2018, an increase mainly due to area expansion, the ministry said.
That included an expected yield of 6.41 t/ha, up from 6.36 t/ha last year, and a harvested area pegged at 1.33 million hectares, up from 1.28 million.
However, the forecast winter barley production would be 3.5% below the average of the past five years.
The ministry kept little changed its area estimates for other crops.
Spring barley is among crops to have gained area after farmers replaced damaged rapeseed fields, with the ministry estimating the spring barley area will jump nearly 22% compared with last year to 589,000 hectares.
Maize is also expected to add area this year, with the ministry estimating sowings at 1.44 million hectares, up 5.6%.
The sugar beet area, however, is seen falling 6.5% to 454,000 hectares, as the sector scales back output in response to a price plunge.
Soft wheat, France's largest cereal crop, is estimated to have an area of 5 million hectares, up nearly 3% from last year.
The ministry will issue its first wheat production forecast in July.