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French Grain Quality Seen at Risk by Arvalis as Rain Soaks Wheat

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July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Grain quality in France, the European Union’s biggest wheat grower and exporter, is at risk after rain last week and with more forecast this weekend, crop researcher Arvalis Institut du Vegetal said.

Last week’s rain came “at the worst time” for unharvested winter grains and will hurt quality criteria such as the Hagberg number, Arvalis wrote in an e-mailed statement, referring to an indicator of baking quality.

Rain on ripe wheat can reduce the Hagberg number as well as specific weight, a measure of dry matter in a volume of grain, and can cause sprouting in the field that ruins grain. Showers will start in western France later today, with more rain and thunderstorms forecast across the country in the next two days, according to weather office Meteo-France.

“The rainy forecast for this weekend is pushing producers to emphasize harvests in those zones were soft wheat is already ripe, to avoid further quality deterioration,” Paris-based farm adviser Agritel said. “Harvesting is accelerating in all regions of France.”

French farmers harvested 5 percent of the soft wheat crop as of July 14, crop office FranceAgriMer reported today.

“The rains last week and stormy degradation announced for this weekend do not bode well for plots that haven’t been harvested yet,” Arvalis wrote. “Physiological maturity is exceeded everywhere so yields and protein contents are fixed. However, other quality criteria may deteriorate.”

In eastern France, farmers should “save the plots they still can” and accept that for part of the soft-wheat area the Hagberg values will drop “well below” 220, Arvalis said.

The Hagberg level indicates enzyme activity in grain, and a lower number indicates more sprout damage, making wheat less suitable for bread baking.

Soft Wheat

“In the central and northeast zones, first results of soft wheat analysis confirm a degree of sprouted grain higher than last year and a deterioration of the Hagberg falling numbers,” Agritel said.

Rain in recent days may have hurt specific weight in Burgundy, as well as Rhone-Alpes, Auvergne and Franche-Comte, according to Arvalis. The four regions grew about 11 percent of France’s soft-wheat crop last year, crop office data show.

Grain deliverable against Paris milling wheat futures must have a minimum specific weight, an indicator of how much flour can be milled from a quantity of grain, of 76 kilograms (167.5 pounds) per hectoliter (2.84 U.S. bushels). The contract doesn’t specify values for protein or Hagberg.

Senalia, the operator of a delivery point for Paris wheat futures, said last month it will stipulate soft wheat in storage for a single supplier has average protein content of 10.5 percent. The export-silo operator said it maintained a reference Hagberg number of 220 and would accept no soft wheat with a value below 170.

More Rainfall

France, Italy, the south of Germany and the U.K., northern Spain as well as western Romania are all expected to receive at least 150 percent of normal rainfall in the next two weeks, according to data from World Ag Weather.

“Wet weather remains in the forecasts for much of Europe over the weekend which is creating some quality concerns and is likely to cause harvest delays,” U.K. grain trader Gleadell Agriculture Ltd. wrote in a market comment.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Deane at jdeane3@bloomberg.net Sharon Lindores, Whitney McFerron

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