France's farm ministry on Tuesday reduced its estimates of winter grain sowing, with the soft wheat area seen at its second-lowest in 30 years, after heavy rain disrupted field work in the European Union's biggest crop producer.

The area sown with winter soft wheat, France's main cereal crop, for the 2024 harvest was pegged at 4.36 million hectares, down from an initial forecast of 4.49 million in December and 7.7% below last year's area.

The revised estimate was the second-lowest since 1994 after 2020, when planting was also slashed by torrential rain, the ministry said in a crop report.

"Adverse weather at the end of 2023, with cumulative rainfall 17% above normal in the fourth quarter, severely disrupted field work," the ministry said.

"Excess moisture will lead to some fields being dug up and some planting being postponed in favour of spring crops."

The ministry reduced its projection of the winter barley area to 1.27 million hectares from 1.31 million previously. That is now down 6.6% from 2023 but in line with the average of the past five years.

For winter rapeseed, France's main oilseed crop, the 2024 area was trimmed to 1.34 million hectares from 1.35 million expected in December, now 0.6% below last year's level but nearly 16% above the five-year average.

Wheat and rapeseed are almost exclusively winter crops in France whereas barley production includes a large amount of spring-sown crop.


(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan)