French wheat crop condition stable, but fears of a return of drought remain

According to FranceAgriMer weather is currently favoring crops

French soft wheat conditions were stable in the week to May 22, remaining at the best levels in at least a decade amid indications that rains have replenished soil moisture after a prolonged dry period, according to a weekly statistics update from FranceAgriMer, released Friday.

The amount of precipitation in the period from mid-April to mid-May has returned to the long-term norm compared with last year but has not been enough to free market participants of concerns, according to trade sources.

Underlying dry conditions and expectations of high temperatures in June mean that there is still a risk that the 2023-24 season could face a drought similar to that seen in the 2022-23 and 2020-21 marketing years.

Extreme high temperatures in June 2022 brought major producing areas to dangerous drought conditions.

The winter that followed was then very dry with an unprecedented sequence of days without rain, according to agency FranceAgriMer.

February 2023 was the fourth driest month since 1959, according to the agency.

“Despite temperatures remaining above the seasonal average and soil moisture becoming increasingly dry, grain production in France is expected to recover from the low levels registered in 2022-23,” the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a recent report.

Crop quality and conditions

About 93% of the crop was rated in good to very good condition by FanceAgriMer, unchanged from the previous week and still better than 69% at the same time in 2022.

The heading stage increased from 44% to 71% (88% in 2022 and 72% on average over the previous 5 years).

Cultivation conditions for durum wheat slipped by one percentage point to 86% rated good to very good, however this was still better than 67% in 2022.

The percentage of the durum wheat crop at the 2-node stage of development advanced to 99% from 100%, while the heading stage increases from 71% to 90%, below 96% in 2022 and 91% on average over the previous 5 years.

Barley crop

For winter barley, crop conditions were stable at 90% good to very good, unchanged from last week and compared with 66% last year.

The heading stage increased from 94% to 100%, which is 1-2 percentage points higher than historical trends.

Spring barley conditions were stable, with 95% in good to very good condition, still better than 61% seen in 2022.

Meanwhile, 99% of the spring barley crop reached the 2-node stage of development, up from 89% the previous week.

This was above of 96% in the same time in 2022 and above a five-year average of 89%.

The heading stage increased from 14% to 23% (52% in 2022 and 28% on average over the previous 5 years).

Corn crop

Finally, corn planting advanced by seven percentage points over the course of the week to reach 95% complete, somewhat behind the pace of recent years, the agency said.

By comparison, FranceAgriMer reported a 99% completion rate at the same time last year and a five-year average of 97%.

The share of the crop at the emergence stage advanced to 81%, down from 94% at the same time last year and a five-year average of 89%.

The 6/8 visible leaf stage progresses from 6% to 14% (37% in 2022 and 24% on average over the previous 5 years).

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