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EU Rapeseed Growers Eye Output Gain as Germany Boosts Acres

Rapeseed output in the European Union, the world’s largest producer of the oilseed used in cooking and biofuels, may increase to a four-year high after German farmers planted more crops.

Total European production may rise to 20.96 million metric tons in 2013-14, up 8.8 percent from a year earlier, Brussels-based farm lobby Copa-Cogeca said in provisional estimates released Dec. 14. That would be the largest crop since the 2009-10 season, EU data show. The rapeseed harvest in Germany, the second-biggest grower in the 27-nation bloc, may climb 15 percent to 5.54 million tons, the country’s oilseed-industry association said in an e-mail Dec. 10.

Rapeseed futures on NYSE Liffe in Paris advanced 4.6 percent this year, rising to a record in July, as drought in the U.S. crimped supplies of soybeans, an alternative oilseed. This season, the EU’s rapeseed harvest was little changed at 19.2 million tons, according to the European Commission, the bloc’s administrative arm. EU farmers begin sowing rapeseed in August, and plants go dormant over winter before harvest starts in June.

“The price was very attractive at the sowing time,” said Dieter Bockey, head of biofuels and renewable resources at Berlin-based industry group Union zur Foerderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen e.V., or UFOP. Germany had “the best sowing conditions in years.”

Rapeseed trailed soybean’s 22 percent gain this year on the Chicago Board of Trade and a 11 percent rise in ICE Futures Winnipeg’s contract for canola, a variety of rapeseed. Soybeans climbed to a record $17.89 a bushel in September and corn climbed to an all-time high of $8.49 a bushel in August. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Agriculture gauge of eight commodities advanced 7.1 percent this year.

Producer, Consumer

The EU is the world’s largest producer, consumer and importer of rapeseed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The oilseed is the bloc’s fourth-largest arable crop, after wheat, barley and corn. In the 2013-14 season, rapeseed may be grown on 6.81 million hectares (16.8 million acres) in the EU, up from 6.48 million hectares in the previous season, according to Copa-Cogeca.

The area devoted to rapeseed in the EU may climb by as much as 500,000 hectares as Germany had its first planting season in three years without excess rain, and farms in Poland seeded more of the crop, Oliver Balkhausen, deputy head of economics at trader Alfred C. Toepfer International GmbH, said on the sidelines of an oilseed meeting last month.

Oil World

Oil World said today it expects EU rapeseed production to rise 7.5 percent from last year to 20.5 million tons, as Germany supplants France as the EU’s largest rapeseed grower. The Hamburg-based researcher said Germany’s harvest may climb 14 percent to 5.5 million tons, while production drops to 5.2 million tons in France and 2.5 million tons in the U.K. Poland’s output may jump 19 percent to 2.15 tons, Oil World said.

In Germany, crop conditions are currently “very good,” Bockey of the UFOP in Berlin said. The group’s production forecast is contingent on the expectation that winter temperatures won’t drop low enough to damage crops. Germany’s rapeseed production in the previous season was 4.82 million tons, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

The winter-crop area in France, the EU’s largest rapeseed producer, may drop 9.4 percent to 1.45 million hectares, because drought in August and September discouraged farmers from planting, according to Paris-based researcher Cetiom.

U.K. Crops

As much as 20 percent of rapeseed crops in the U.K. may be at risk of failure after excess rain fell from September to November and fields were infested with slugs, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. Devizes, England-based marketing company United Oilseeds estimates that 114,000 hectares will have to be replanted in the spring, or about 15 percent of the country’s crop.

“Crops have struggled,” said Owen Cligg, the trading manager at United Oilseeds, which a handles 20 percent of the U.K.’s rapeseed crop. “They’re still quite small and not very well-established, so we’re expecting a certain percentage of those not to come through the winter. Some already have been plowed up to be planted with something else.”

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