French Rapeseed Crop May Fall to 3-Year Low on Bugs, Wet Weather

  • Production may fall 3.7% from last year: Agriculture Ministry
  • Rains leave crops vulnerable to insect damage, crop disease

France’s winter rapeseed production may slide to a three-year low this year as crops were hit by insect infestations and as cool, cloudy conditions threaten to reduce yields.

Production may drop to 5.09 million metric tons, 3.7 percent lower than last year and the smallest crop since 2013, France’s Agriculture Ministry said Monday in a report, releasing its first forecast for the new season. France vies with Germany as the European Union’s top producer of rapeseed, an oilseed crop that’s crushed to make cooking oil and biofuel. Winter varieties account for nearly all of France’s crop.

France has seen a deluge of rain in recent weeks, with some areas receiving three times the normal amount of precipitation in May. Wet weather leaves crops vulnerable to crop diseases, fungus and insects.

Crops were already hit by insect outbreaks shortly after planting last autumn, and cloudy conditions during crops’ flowering stage threaten to reduce yields and slow plant development, said Alexandre Boy, an analyst at French farm adviser Agritel. The ministry’s estimate is lower than Agritel’s forecast of 5.15 million tons, he said.

“We really need to wait for the harvest to have a better outlook of what we will have," Boy said by phone from Paris. “For rapeseed, we never know what we will get until it’s in the bin.”

Rapeseed futures are trading near the highest level since December on Euronext in Paris. The August contract rose as much as 1 percent on Monday to 383 euros a metric ton.

Here are more highlights from the ministry’s report:

  • Winter-barley production was pegged at 9.47 million tons, 0.5 percent less than last year because of lower yields.
  • The estimate for soft-wheat area was unchanged at 5.25 million hectares (13 million acres).
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