French Cereal Sowing Underway, Market Weighs Risk Of Another Washout
Wheat and barley sowing is underway in France, with farmers facing frequent showers that have raised concern about a repeat of last year's campaign that saw torrential rain slash the crop area in the European Union's biggest grain grower.
For soft wheat, France's main cereal crop, farmers had sown 6% of the expected area for next year's harvest as of 5 October, farm office FranceAgriMer said on Friday.
That compared with 3% a week earlier and also 3% in the corresponding week last year, it said in a weekly cereal crop report containing its first sowing estimates for the season.
But this year's wheat sowing progress was slightly below the average of the past five years, the report showed.
For winter barley, 5% of the projected area had been drilled by Monday, less than 7% a year earlier and also lagging the five-year average, according to FranceAgriMer.
Heavy rain since late September has eased a summer drought that disrupted earlier rapeseed sowing, while also bringing back memories of a dire cereal sowing campaign last year when incessant rain led to a sharp fall in winter wheat and barley area.
After calmer weather mid-week, major northern grain belts are set for regular showers and cool temperatures in the coming days.
But public weather service Meteo France's seasonal scenario for autumn shows the probability of drier than normal conditions.
"The question has been whether we'll see what we saw last year," a trader said. "For the moment there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Some analysts also played down risks, with several weeks to go in the optimal planting window.
"Winter wheat plantings are starting in France without raising too many concerns at this stage of the season," consultancy Agritel said.
Farmers were continuing maize harvesting, with 49% of the crop gathered by Monday, FranceAgriMer said.