• France’s top grain coop sees delays of 8-10 days: Loiseau
  • Heavy rains increased the need to protect against disease

Recent deluges in France that flooded metro stations in Paris will delay the harvest in the European Union’s biggest wheat producer, according to the country’s biggest grain cooperative.

Harvesting will probably start up to 10 days later than usual, said Jean-Francois Loiseau, chairman of Axereal, which collects about 5.5 million metric tons a year from its members. Wheat-growing areas in France got twice the normal rainfall in the past 30 days, fueling concern about the quality of this year’s crop, Speedwell Weather said June 13.

"We are 8 to 10 days late," Loiseu said in an interview Wednesday in the French city of Chartres, in Axereal’s main growing area in the central part of the country. Delays are a result of cold temperatures and rains, he said.

Growing areas in central and northern France got the most rain in May, the wettest month in the area since 1959, according to FranceAgriMer. Temperatures were also 0.5 degrees Celsius below normal. Rainfall continued in early June and some areas got 4 to 6 inches more than normal in the past 45 days, WeatherBell said in a report Tuesday. Orleans, where Axereal is based, got 7.1 inches in 30 days, or three months’ worth of rain.

The wet weather means crops are reaching heading stage four days later and conditions have deteriorated, according to FranceAgriMer. Soft-wheat crops were rated 79 percent good-very good in the week ended June 6, down from 81 percent a week earlier, while winter barley conditions fell 2 percentage points in the period, data from the crops office showed.

The recent weather conditions have increased the need for farmers to protect against disease, agronomist Janny Robin said at the Axereal press conference in Chartres. It has also increased the chance of crops falling over, a phenomenon known as lodging, where plants can no longer stand due to the weight of the water, he said.

Wheat lodging is only present in very specific areas of Axereal growing regions, Loiseau said, adding that the company won’t have an assessment of the crop until the harvest starts. Axereal is also helping growers tackle disease and other pests with research centers including one in Vieuvicq, where farmers were gathering Wednesday to learn about new techniques.

Markets are becoming more volatile and "growers need tools to take precise actions," Philippe de Raynal, Axereal’s chief executive officer, told reporters. Growing crops is becoming more and more complex, he added.

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