PARIS- France's farm ministry on Tuesday lowered its estimate of 2021 soft wheat production in the European Union's biggest grain grower and warned of risks to crop quality due to wet weather.
This year's soft wheat crop, now being harvested, is expected to reach 36.69 million tonnes, down from 37.10 million initially projected last month, the ministry said.
The reduced forecast would nonetheless be 25.8% above the volume last year, when France reaped one of its smallest wheat crops in decades, and 10% higher than the average of the past five years, the ministry said in a crop report.
Projected barley production was revised upwards to 11.69 million tonnes from 11.29 million forecast in July, putting output 12.2% above last year and 1% above the five-year average.
France is widely expected to harvest more wheat and barley than in last year's disappointing harvest, but heavy rain during summer has raised concerns about late damage.
"While volumes are returning to a decent level, concerns are focused on grain quality, which is being affected by high moisture," the ministry said.
Grain quality determines wheat's suitability for milling and access to export markets. Rain delays to field work and varied quality so far for harvested crop are creating difficulties for traders organising early-season shipments to major markets such as Algeria.
In its first production forecast for this year's grain maize crop, the ministry projected output, excluding crops grown for seeds, at 12.88 million tonnes, down 3.2% from last year.
An expected increase in yields would be outweighed by a decline in planted area, the ministry said.
Maize (corn) crops were benefiting from the heavy summer rain, although forecasts were tentative with about two months left until the harvest, it added.
For rapeseed, France's main oilseed crop, forecast production was revised up to 3.22 million tonnes from 3.00 million last month but was 2.1% below last year's weak volume due to a sharp drop in planted area.
For sugar beet, the ministry kept unchanged its area estimate at 408,000 hectares, down 3.1% from last year, ahead of its first production estimate in September.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Forrest Crellin, Editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans) ((email@example.com; +33 1 49 49 52 18; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))