Rapeseed thrives in Germany but French yields fall

The outlook for rapeseed crops in Germany continues to improve, but prospects for crops elsewhere in western Europe are less promising with some low initial yields reported in France and production in Britain set to fall sharply.

The rapeseed harvest in Germany, which is set to overtake France this year as the European Union’s top producer of the oilseed, should start to gather pace in the next few days.

“Isolated rapeseed cuttings have started in the early regions of south Germany, but a widespread start to harvesting should start next week if the dry weather holds,” one German analyst said.

“I think the improved weather has made people much more optimistic about the crop this year.”

Toepfer International forecast last week that Germany’s rapeseed harvest would reach 6.04 million tonnes, up from the weather-reduced 4.82 million tonnes in 2012.

Growth conditions in Germany were almost optimal for weeks, Toepfer said, leading it to expect a “significantly above-average harvest” for winter rapeseed.

In France, the early stages of the rapeseed harvest have shown some low yields in major growing belts in the northern half of the country, supporting expectations for a sharp drop in production this year.

But a clearer trend may not emerge until next month after storms this week have put back harvesting, which was already delayed by slow crop development during the growing season.

The farm ministry forecast in early July a crop of 4.43 million tonnes, down 18.8 per cent on last year. This reflected both an expected 11 per cent fall in the average yield to 3.06 tonnes a hectare and a drop in the harvested area after some poor crops were dug up after winter.

LOW YIELDS

In a broad swathe of western France, which represents around 40 per cent of the national area, oilseed institute Cetiom said early yield indications were low.

“About 10 to 20 per cent of the harvest has been completed, with first reports of yields around 25 quintals (2.5 tonnes) a hectare,” Cetiom said, referring to the Centre, Eure and Ile-de-France regions. It added that not all crops were ripe yet.

First cuttings in Poitou-Charentes, Vendee and Limousin suggested even lower yields of 1.5-2.5 tonnes, but these reflected fields hit by excess water and insects, Cetiom said in a note on Wednesday.

Harvest progress is expected to have been stalled by violent storms in France this week.

In Britain, the rapeseed harvest should start in early August if warm and dry weather persists, with a smaller crop anticipated after a drop in planted area.

“I think people are talking in the region of 2 million tonnes, maybe just below,” said Jack Watts, a senior analyst with the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

Britain’s rapeseed harvest totalled 2.56 million tonnes last year.

A survey issued by the HGCA earlier this week found the rapeseed area in Britain was down 9 per cent, with a 19 per cent fall in the higher-yielding winter rapeseed area only partially offset by a rise in the spring area.

“The fact we have a greater proportion of spring rapeseed will be detrimental to the overall yield,” Watts said.

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