French Corn Worsens for Sixth Week After Excess Rain in South

France’s corn crop worsened for a sixth week after excess rain saturated soils and cool temperatures held back planting and crop development in the southwestern region of Aquitaine, the biggest growing area.

Corn rated as good or excellent made up 55 percent of the country’s crop as of June 24, down from 58 percent the previous week, crop office FranceAgriMer reported today. The corn getting top ratings has dropped from 77 percent as of May 13.

France’s corn harvest, the European Union’s biggest, may rise to 16.2 million metric tons from 15.5 million tons in 2012, grain-trading lobby Coceral predicts. At this time last year, 74 percent of French corn was rated good or excellent.

“Current conditions are indeed bad for corn plants, which are not developing quickly,” said Celine Sicard, an analyst at Paris-based grain cooperative InVivo. “Plants are delayed. That increases the risk of drought at time of pollination.”

Sowing delays mean 70,000 hectares (172,970 acres) remain unplanted, with production potential of more than 600,000 tons, according to Sicard. France’s corn was 96 percent planted, compared with 95 percent seven days earlier, while last year the crop was fully planted in the week of June 10.

Aquitaine, good for about 20 percent of the nation’s crop, has been unusually wet, with Bordeaux getting 131 millimeters (5.2 inches) of rain in June compared with 62 millimeters normally, data from weather office Meteo France show. Maximum temperatures in Bordeaux have been lower-than-usual on 22 days in June and higher than normal on five.

Corn ratings in Aquitaine have declined the fastest among the nine regions tracked by FranceAgriMer, with the portion of the crop rated as good sliding to 44 percent from 83 percent five weeks ago.

Aquitaine

Soil moisture in the north of Aquitaine was close to 99 percent as of June 20, according to satellite data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning fields were saturated with water. Corn sowing in Aquitaine was 88 percent completed, unchanged from the previous week and the lowest of any region in France, according to FranceAgriMer.

The percentage of corn in France with six to eight visible leaves increased to 67 percent as of June 24 from 54 percent the previous week, and compared with 95 percent at the same time last year, the report showed.

Corn pollination will happen around the end of July and the start of August, which will determine the amount of grains per cob, according to Sicard. Cold soils resulting from the cool and wet conditions may reduce the chances of a “real drought” around that time, she said.

“The plants therefore could pass through the stage of flowering followed by the stage of grain filling in good conditions,” Sicard said. “Even if the plants don’t reach a record, in the end they could produce an average yield.”

Soft wheat with top ratings was stable at 68 percent of the crop, while spring barley rated good or excellent was unchanged at 72 percent, according to FranceAgriMer. Winter barley rated good or excellent amounted to 67 percent, down 1 percentage point from the previous week.

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