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French Farmers May Plant Barley to Replace Damaged Wheat

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- French farmers whose wheat fields were damaged by freezing weather last month may replant spring barley, according to Remi Haquin, president of the cereals council at crop office FranceAgriMer.

The regions in France that suffered from winterkill in wheat are not necessarily those suitable for corn, for example in the case of Lorraine, Haquin said today at a press conference in Montreuil-sous-Bois outside Paris.

Temperatures in the Alsace and Lorraine regions fell below minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) in February, after mild January weather had boosted crop development. It’s too early to assess the extent of damage to wheat, Haquin said.

“There is damage, there will be plowing over, that’s for sure,” Haquin said. “What we can’t say today is how much is affected and what effect it will have on production in July.”

Lorraine on average produced 4.8 percent of French soft wheat in the past five years, while Alsace accounted for about 1 percent of the crop, FranceAgriMer data show.

“We don’t have a year to compare because we haven’t had such damage so late in the season at such an advanced state of vegetal development,” he said. “Where it froze is not necessarily where you can plant corn. In Lorraine, what is plowed over will rather be planted with barley.”

Haquin sowed 160 hectares (395 acres) of winter wheat for this year’s harvest on his 350-hectare farm north of Paris, and while some fields look “a little ragged,” no wheat needs to be plowed, he said.

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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