France is on course to harvest 37.0 million tonnes of soft wheat this year, 8.5% more than in 2018, the country's farm ministry said on Tuesday, supporting market expectations of a bigger crop in the European Union's top wheat grower.
The initial production estimate for the soft wheat crop was also 3.6% above the average of the past five years, the ministry said in a crop report.
The forecast was based on a projected yield of 7.37 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), up from 6.98 t/ha last year.
The crop area was estimated at 5.01 million hectares, up from 4.88 million as soft wheat benefited from a decline in rapeseed and durum wheat sowing, the ministry said.
However, the forecast did not take into account a late-June heatwave that may affect final yields, it added.
Weekly crop ratings as estimated by farming agency FranceAgriMer fell sharply following the record-breaking heatwave, but traders and analysts anticipate local heat damage will have a small impact on national yields.
For barley, the ministry forecast total production of 12.6 million tonnes, up 12.3% from last year.
That included a first estimate of the spring barley crop at 3.9 million tonnes, an increase of around 27% mainly due to a jump in sowings.
For winter barley, the ministry increased its production outlook to 8.7 million from 8.5 million last month, now 6.7% above last year's level.
By contrast, rapeseed production, including a small amount of spring crop, was estimated at 3.6 million tonnes, down almost 27% from last year and the lowest volume since 2003.
The forecast was below the ministry's initial estimate of 3.8 million tonnes last month for the main winter rapeseed crop, with the reduced outlook reflecting a reduction in the area to 1.2 million hectares from 1.3 million.
The ministry did not explain the area revision but reiterated that rapeseed had suffered from adverse weather, including drought and frost, and insect attacks that led to widespread resowing of fields with other crops.
For durum - the wheat variety used in pasta - production was seen falling nearly 19% to 1.5 million tonnes due to a steep drop in the area due to unattractive prices and drought last year.
For summer crops, the ministry increased its estimate of the grain maize area, to 1.46 million hectares from 1.44 million last month, confirming a rebound from 1.37 million in 2018.
For sugar beet it trimmed its area estimate to 451,000 hectares from 454,000 last month, now down 7.2% from last year.