Paris | Reuters — A heatwave in Western Europe is adding to stress on wheat crops after a dry end to spring and reducing what had been very high yield potential only a month ago.
Record temperatures for early July at around 40 C in parts of France unnerved traders in the European Union’s top wheat grower and helped push Paris wheat futures to a six-month peak.
With similar searing heat forecast in No. 2 EU producer Germany this weekend, forecasters said there was growing uncertainty about harvest yields.
“Yield results from Spain keep going down, people are revising down the French crop, Germany is hard to call, Poland is worrying while the Baltic states are also dry,” Sebastien Poncelet of consultancy Agritel said.
“Only Romania and Bulgaria are looking relatively unscathed as they got reasonable weather towards the end of the growth cycle, like parts of Russia and Ukraine.”
Agritel has cut its EU soft wheat estimate for 2015 by two million tonnes since mid-June to 138.5 million tonnes. Fellow consultancy ODA Group has lowered its outlook to 137.3 million tonnes compared with 140 million expected a month ago.
Other forecasters have higher numbers but most have revised downwards to bring the crop further away from a record volume of around 149 million tonnes last year.
Britain dry too
In France, the intense heat that is due to continue until next week has deepened concerns in northern belts where crops are still maturing, although good soils and healthy crop development earlier in the season could limit losses.
Agritel has reduced its French outlook to just over 37 million tonnes compared with 38.5 million a month ago and below last year’s 37.5 million tonnes. ODA is now at 36.4 million tonnes, at the low end of trade estimates.
Wheat harvesting is under way in southern France, with three per cent of the national area cut by Monday, FranceAgriMer said.
In Germany, temperatures of 35 to 40 C are forecast for much of the country up to Monday next week.
Harvesting is expected to begin around July 12-13 in isolated areas of the southwest with the northern export state of Schleswig-Holstein starting around Aug. 10-15, one analyst said.
German farmers’ association DBV already expects recent dry weather to contribute to an expected 8.3 per cent fall in the winter wheat crop from last year to 25.12 million tonnes.
In Britain, the EU’s third-largest wheat grower, dry conditions could trim yields and deepen an expected fall from last year’s 16.6-million-tonne crop after farmers sowed less wheat this season.
ODA forecasts production of 15 million tonnes but said it could lower its view if rain fails to return in the next two weeks during the grain-filling period.
— Gus Trompiz reports on ag commodity markets for Reuters from Paris. Additional reporting for Reuters by Valerie Parent in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London.