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France Winter Wheat Area to Climb 1.5%, Ministry Says

France’s winter soft-wheat plantings are expected to rise 1.5 percent to the highest level in three years, at the expense of the barley and durum wheat areas, the agriculture ministry’s statistics office said.

Soft-wheat sowing for next year’s harvest is forecast at 5 million hectares (12.3 million acres) from 4.92 million hectares last year, Agreste said in a report on its website today, citing estimates as of Dec. 1.

France is the European Union’s largest wheat grower. Wheat for delivery in November 2011 has climbed 52 percent on NYSE Liffe in Paris since trading started in March, increasing farmers’ incentive to plant the grain.

“All the main producing regions for winter soft wheat should have increasing surfaces, with the Centre region remaining the foremost,” the statistics office said. “The barley area will be down for the second consecutive year.”

Bourges, France-based farm adviser Offre et Demande last month forecast winter planting of soft wheat would jump 6.2 percent to 5.23 million hectares, the highest since at least 1988, based on a survey of 1,000 farmers across the country.

The winter barley area is forecast to slide 1.9 percent to 1.15 million hectares and sowing of durum wheat, the hard variety used to make pasta and couscous, will drop 3.6 percent to 472,000 hectares, based on the ministry’s forecast.

Overall winter cereal plantings will likely increase 0.6 percent to 7.09 million hectares, Agreste said.

Winter-planted rapeseed is forecast to climb 1.3 percent to 1.47 million hectares.

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