15 August 2001
Heavy rain raises French crop doubts

By Debbie Beaton

THE French harvest is proving to be disappointing to disastrous in certain regions, according to Crops farm diary writer Jonathan Hough.

Wheat yields have plummeted by as much as 4t/ha. Many oilseed rape crops have yielded just 2 to 2.5t/ha, with plantings in some regions down an estimated 30% this year.

The full picture on wheat quality has yet to emerge, but in the area between Paris and the Loire valley there have been very high germinations due to heavy rains in the critical harvest period.

Hagberg levels for wheat in this area have fallen to 120. Wheat prices are running at FF730/t (70/t) ex-farm.

The lower oilseed rape plantings are expected as a result of this years harvest, coupled with falling area aid and increasing expense in producing the crop.

Mr Hough, who manages 6000ha south of Paris, believes likely replacements to oilseed rape include soya, grain maize and peas on irrigated land and winter beans on non-irrigated land.

France is actively promoting non-GM soya, so the government is providing an extra 800-1000FF/ha (77-96/ha) over the Brussels area aid protein subsidy.

By 2005, when the area aid for oilseeds will be the same as cereals, many experts predict oilseed rape and sunflowers will be a rare sight throughout France.

The sunflower acreage in France has steadily fallen in line with poorer prices and poorer yields says Mr Hough.

“Sunflower yields are half a tonne less than they were five years ago and no one can explain why.”

Prices for sunflowers have fallen below oilseed rape in recent years, while costs of controlling disease have risen steadily.