French wheat exports to fall on bad crop

Germany may overtake France as the EU's top wheat exporter this season as French soft wheat exports outside the European Union could plunge by 60 percent due to a poor harvest, consultancy Agritel said.

French soft wheat exports outside the 28-country EU are expected to fall to 5.1 million tonnes in 2016/17, from 12.8 million last season and below projected German exports of 6.65 million, French-based Agritel said in a presentation.

Frances export prospects would be limited by both a dramatic drop in harvest output, which Agritel sees falling 30 percent from last year to 28.68 million tonnes, and quality problems relating to a key measure of wheats suitability for milling markets.

"France is probably going to lose this season its place as the EUs biggest wheat exporter," Michel Portier, head of Agritel, told reporters. "Exports outside the EU are going to be the big variable (on the balance sheet)."

France, the EUs biggest wheat grower, was also expected to import more wheat this season, with Agritel forecasting 900,000 tonnes against 430,000 last season, although volumes would depend on price differentials on the world market, it said.

Forecasters have in the past month slashed their outlook for the wheat crop in France as harvesting has shown severe effects from heavy rain, limited sunshine and plant disease during spring.

Agritel estimated the average French soft wheat yield at its lowest since 1983 at 5.48 tonnes per hectare, lower than a farm ministry estimate on Friday that pegged the yield at 5.57 tonnes a hectare, already the lowest level since 1986.Germany has also endured persistent rain that has raised worries about harvest losses. But Agritel said it would be less impacted and that German production estimated at 25.5 million tonnes would allow good exports although slightly below last seasons level.

The adverse weather in France had also led to poor readings for specific weights, a common standard for milling wheat, which could limit French sales to usual export destinations like Algeria and Morocco.

Agritel also projected France would export more soft wheat within the EU than outside the bloc this season, as its mixed-quality crop was expected to find feed wheat outlets in the EU. It forecast France would ship 7.3 million tonnes within the EU, down slightly from 7.7 million in 2015/16.

Source: The News