PARIS - A dry, warm spell from this week should let wheat growers in northern Europe step up harvesting after heavy rain threatened to add quality problems to a crop where yields have already been reduced by earlier drought, analysts and farmers said.

In France, the European Union's biggest grain producer, farmers have made little progress gathering wheat in the past two weeks, stalling what had been a speedy harvest.

"We had a very good looking crop that unfortunately has been hit by the rain," said Benoit Boutroy, a farmer in Escalles in the far north of France, as he resumed harvesting this week.

France is still expected to produce a larger volume this year, with the farm ministry expecting soft wheat production to rise 5.6% from last season.

"The quantity will be there, but there will be some quality issues mainly due to test weights," Jean-Francois Loiseau, a farmer and head of grain industry association Intercereales, said.

Test weights, like protein content and Hagberg falling numbers, are measures of wheat's milling quality. Wheat that does not meet milling standards can be sold as livestock feed.

In Germany, only about half of the crop has been gathered.

“If the weather does improve we can probably save the harvest volume but not the quality,” one German grains analyst said. “While we are not looking at a catastrophe, we must now expect damage to quality from rain, but the extent is still not clear.”

Germany's association of farm cooperatives forecast last month that the wheat harvest will fall 3.2% on the year to 21.79 million metric tons.

In Poland, about 40% of the wheat crop has been harvested overall, with only 15% in wet northern regions, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

"It seems that the share of feed wheat in the total wheat crop in Poland will be much higher than previously expected. Thus, the premium paid for high-protein wheat will be substantially higher than in the previous season,” Sabaranski said.

He forecasts Poland's wheat crop at about 12.5 million metric tons, down 7% from last year.

Analysts have reduced yield estimates in Europe in recent months as dry, hot weather stressed crops, most dramatically in Spain.

Consultancy Strategie Grains said on Thursday it now sees the EU crop below last year's level.

In Britain, the wheat harvest is now around 15% to 20% complete and similarly expected to pick up with clearer weather this week.

Early harvest data showed yields were roughly in line with the five-year average, with moisture and quality variable after July storms, ADM Agriculture Ltd said in a note.

CRM Agri analyst Peter Collier forecast a crop of about 15 million metric tons, down from last season's 15.5 million, due to a smaller planted area.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris, Pascal Rossignol in Escalles, France, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)