Record French Downpours Causing Delays to Sugar Beet Growth

  • French sugar beet development running 15 days behind, IBT Says
  • Delays to crop growth can still be made up later: F.O. Licht

Heavy rainfall and chilly temperatures in France are delaying the development of sugar beets in the European Union’s largest producer.

Plant development is 15 days behind last year’s pace after record rains fell in growing areas since May, according to Institut Technique de la Betterave. Precipitation over French beet areas was more than triple the normal over the past 45 days, said Kyle Tapley, a forecaster at MDA Weather Services.

The French sugar-beet harvest will start in October and the critical period for the crop is July and August. With the weather turning drier this week, there’s still a chance that flooded fields will dry up before any damage can be done to the crop. Beets are usually resistant to submersion for 8 to 10 days.

"The development of the beets has so far been relatively slow given the cool temperatures and the water," said Christoph Berg, managing director of Ratzeburg, Germany-based researcher F.O. Licht GmbH. "Some fields are submerged but not in the critical phase yet."

Expanded Plantings

France may produce 5 million metric tons of sugar in the 2016-17 season as farmers expanded plantings and yields will probably be higher, crops office FranceAgriMer said in a report last week. Output in mainland France was estimated at 4.3 million tons this season and the overseas departments, which include Martinique and French Guiana, produced about 296,000 tons, according to the European Commission.

Parts of France got as much as 350 millimeters (1.1 feet) of rain since May and temperatures were below average, the IBT said in a June 23 report. It will be "significantly" drier in French beet areas this week, allowing fields to dry out, according to MDA’s Tapley.

Delays to crop development in France can be made up later and good soil moisture will help the sugar beets increase in weight, said Berg of F.O. Licht. Beets will probably grow "relatively quickly" when it gets drier, he said. The biggest threat of wet weather is rotting, which would only happen closer to harvest time, according to Tapley.

"The French sugar beet crop is a source of worry for the market even it had little to no impact on futures," Tobin Gorey, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said in a report Tuesday. "A significant proportion of France’s beet crop is sodden, if not actually under water."

In Germany, southern parts of the country also saw too much rainfall, while the north was drier, according to F.O. Licht. Output in Germany, the EU’s second-biggest sugar producer, is estimated to reach 2.9 million tons this season, according to data from the EC.

"Bavaria is certainly similar to the French situation, a lot of rain," Berg said. "The situation is worse in France than even in the south of Germany."

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