Worst Wheat Yields Since ’86 Spurs France to Slash Crop Outlook

  • Soft-wheat production estimate cut 21%: Agriculture Ministry
  • Output falling from record as yields to be 5.57 tons a hectare

The worst French wheat yields in a generation prompted the European Union’s biggest grower to cut its production forecast by 21 percent in just a month.

The country will harvest 29.1 million metric tons of soft wheat in the season that started last month after heavy rainfall damaged crops, the Agriculture Ministry said in an online report Friday. That’s down from a July estimate of 37 million tons and more than a quarter below last year’s record.

Farmers’ yields are set to drop to the lowest in three decades, when France suffered from severe drought, and worsening quality means more of the crop will be fed to livestock because it’s not good enough to make bread. The rains earlier this year, which even flooded Paris metro stations, will also lead to smaller-than-expected barley and durum-wheat crops, the ministry said.

"Excessive rain and lack of sunshine in June severely penalized yields for winter crops," the ministry said, estimating yields at 5.57 tons a hectare (2.5 acres). "The climatic conditions favored the proliferation of diseases and pests."

Private forecasters CRM Agri-Commodities, Offre & Demande Agricole and Agritel have already lowered wheat-production estimates to about 30 million tons or less. ODA expects the smallest crop in 28 years and Groupe Soufflet, which buys about 4 million tons of grains annually in France, said the year has been "catastrophic" and unlike anything seen in four decades.

Crop Outlook

The ministry reduced its barley outlook for this season by 7.3 percent to 10.2 million tons, down 21 percent from a year earlier, after the grain was hit by pests. Output of durum wheat, used to make pasta, will fall 20 percent from a year earlier to 1.4 million tons.

The nation’s corn production will be little changed from last year at 13.7 million tons, as higher yields compensate for a reduction in the planted area. It was the ministry’s first forecast for the grain.

Other highlights of the report:

  • Rapeseed output is seen falling 15 percent to 4.5 million tons.
  • Sunflower-seed production forecast to rise 8.9 percent to 1.3 million tons.
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