May 7 (Bloomberg) -- French farmers will lift corn planting by 4.5 percent to the highest level in three years, the Agriculture Ministry forecast.
Corn for grain production will be planted on 1.67 million hectares (4.12 million acres) from 1.59 million hectares in 2011, the ministry wrote in a monthly crop report. Planting was 53 percent done as of May 1, the ministry wrote.
France is the European Union’s largest corn producer. Sowing of the crop will be the most since 2009, when farmers harvested 1.76 million hectares of grain corn, the data show.
“While the area of grain corn is estimated to be up, the surface for fodder corn will decline,” the ministry wrote. “The final target between grain and silage will depend in particular on the fodder stocks of livestock breeders.”
The country’s overall corn area, including for fodder use, will be stable at 3 million hectares, the ministry said.
France’s soft-wheat area is estimated at 4.72 million hectares, falling 5.3 percent from 4.99 million hectares after freezing in February destroyed part of the crop, according to the report. The forecast was little changed from April.
Planting of durum wheat, the hard variety of the grain used to make pasta and couscous, is forecast to rise 0.5 percent to 420,000 hectares, the ministry said.
Barley will be grown on 1.78 million hectares, climbing 15 percent from last year as farmers sow a record area of spring barley after frost damage to winter grains, the report showed. The forecast was increased from a predicted 13 percent rise.
Rapeseed planting is estimated to fall 1 percent to 1.54 million hectares this year, compared with an April outlook for the area to climb 1.7 percent, the ministry wrote.
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