France Soft-Wheat Crop Seen Biggest in Five Years as Yields Rise

French farmers harvested the most soft wheat in five years after yields in the north of the country, the European Union’s biggest grain grower, were better than expected, crop office FranceAgriMer said.

This year’s soft wheat crop is estimated at 36.7 million metric tons, rising 3 percent from 2012 production of 35.6 million tons and more than the 35.9 million tons predicted in July, a forecast published online today showed.

Agricultural cooperatives in northern France last month reported better-than-expected wheat quality and yields, easing concerns that a cold and wet spring would weigh on production and export prospects.

“Grain-filling conditions in the north were good,” Francois Luguenot, head of market analysis at InVivo, the biggest exporter of French wheat, said by phone from Paris. “In the south of the country, the first cuts revealed things were mediocre, the northern half didn’t have the same problem.”

France’s soft wheat was fully harvested at the start of last week, according to FranceAgriMer data.

Average soft-wheat yields in France are estimated at 7.36 tons per hectare (2.47 acres), up from 7.33 tons per hectare in 2012 and compared with an initial outlook for yields of 7.19 tons per hectare, today’s FranceAgriMer report showed.

The crop is estimated to be the biggest since a 2008 harvest of 37.1 million tons. Yields are the highest since 2009, when production per hectare was an average 7.71 tons on a reduced planted area.

“Wheat is a plant with formidable resilience,” Luguenot said. “In Europe, in our weather context of an oceanic climate, it’s rare that we have a disaster.”

Output

The Picardie region in northern France overtook the Centre region south of Paris as the country’s largest production area, with output climbing to 4.97 million from 4.5 million tons in 2012, the FranceAgriMer data show. Centre’s output fell to 4.6 million tons from 4.99 million tons, according to the report.

Average yields in Picardie were the highest in France at 9.11 tons per hectare, up from 8.27 tons last year and compared with FranceAgriMer’s July outlook of 8.37 tons per hectare.

France exported 17.1 million tons of soft wheat in 2012-13, up 6.5 percent from the previous season, according to trade data published last month, as well as 1.59 million tons of the harder durum variety used to make pasta and couscous. That made the country the world’s third-biggest wheat shipper last year behind the U.S and Australia, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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