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Warm Winter Generates Optimism For Large EU Wheat Crop

By Donna Ahern
Warm Winter Generates Optimism For Large EU Wheat Crop

Europe’s unusually warm winter has created good initial conditions for this summer's wheat harvest, with frost damage hardly seen in top producing regions, traders and analysts said on Friday.

Farmers are also starting early with fertiliser spraying, giving wheat an early boost.

"Optimism about the harvest is growing, although the frost danger is not over and much will still depend on spring/summer weather," one German trader said.

"A larger crop this summer would help replenish supplies after last year's poor harvest, especially in the face of the still-unknown Brexit terms."

'A Large Harvest'

In France, the EU’s largest producer, wheat is mostly in good shape after the mild winter so far, adding to the prospect of a large harvest this year after farmers increased sowings.

Last month was France's second-warmest February on record, boosting wheat development while rain in recent days brought welcome moisture.

"For the moment, yield potential is decent for both wheat and barley," a French grain broker said. "What could cause damage is if there is a sudden cold spell just after this period of crop growth."

France's Agriculture Ministry estimates farmers sowed 5.0 million hectares of winter soft wheat for the 2019 harvest, up 2.9% from last year.

'Growing Strongly'

In Germany, the second-largest producer, wheat has emerged from winter dormancy two to four weeks earlier than usual and is growing strongly, a German grains analyst said.

"There is regional concern about dryness and wheat is vulnerable to frosts but overall the picture is super," he said.

German winter wheat sowings expanded by 4.6 percent to 3.0 million hectares.

In number-three producer Britain, wheat is looking good.

"Early inputs of fertiliser had gone on in a timely way and the rain we had recently has been very supportive to crop development," said Jack Watts, chief adviser for combinable crops at Britain's National Farmers Union.

British farmers expanded wheat sowings by 4% to a five-year high of 1.86 million hectares.

Positive Trend

In fourth-largest producer Poland, winter wheat development looks positive following a mild winter so far, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

Frost damage is "not a big issue", Sabaranski said.

Sparks Polska estimates Polish farmers have planted about 2 million hectares of winter wheat for this summer's harvest, up just over 2% from last year.

With little frost damage, Poland will probably see more winter wheat harvested as farmers need not replant with spring grains, Sabaranski said.

News by Reuters, edited by Donna Ahern Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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