London/Reuters — Rapeseed production in Western Europe looks set to increase this season but early promise may not be fully realized, crop analysts said on Wednesday.
Crops were sown in favourable conditions, enjoyed a safe passage through winter and had healthy growth in the spring but yields have failed to meet expectations in both north-east France and Britain while in Germany there is concern that last minute rain could damage the size and quality of the harvest.
“Farmers face an intensely worrying time as sunshine is needed to complete rapeseed harvesting but we have had repeated rain in much of the country this week,” one analyst in Germany, normally the EU’s largest producer, said.
Rain is forecast in Germany from Thursday to Sunday.
“If we get heavy rainfall on rapeseed just as it is ready to be harvested there could be damage to both crop quality and yields. We will just have to wait and see how the weather develops in the next week. It is a nail-biting time for farmers,” the analyst added.
Germany will harvest 5.97 million tonnes of winter rapeseed in 2014, up 3.5 per cent on the year, German farm cooperatives forecast on July 7.
The French harvest was now in its latter stages, with field work under way in a northeastern zone that represents 40-45 per cent of the national crop, oilseed institute Cetiom said.
“We were disappointed by the first cuttings (in the northeast) which were not as good as anticipated. For the moment we’re seeing yields of 4.5-5.0 tonnes a hectare against 5.0-5.5 expected,” Cetiom’s Fabien Lagarde said.
The initial results in the northeast should leave the national yield below a record 3.78 tonnes a hectare seen in 2009, but still allow an average of around 3.7 tonnes, up more than 20 per cent on 3.0 tonnes in 2013, Lagarde said.
Cetiom’s yield outlook was above a farm ministry forecast in early July that projected a national yield of 3.45 tonnes a hectare (62 bu./ac.) and production of 5.2 million tonnes, up 19 per cent on last year’s crop and nearly 2 per cent above the average of the past five years.
The fact yields in the northeast were not as high as hoped was due to the unexpectedly small size of seeds, despite there being good seed numbers, Lagarde said.
Wet weather in the run-up to harvesting had also caused germination of seeds in some regions, a rare phenomenon in France, he said, adding this could make it harder to extract rapeoil but should not significantly affect yields.
Heavy rain last weekend stalled rapeseed harvesting in northern zones and a clear picture of the harvest there might not emerge until next week, Lagarde said.
In Britain, production should rise from last year’s sub-par level, even though yields so far had been lower than many had anticipated.
“The yields are slightly above average but the expectation was they were going to yield better so there is some slight disappointment there,” said analyst Susan Twining of crop consultants ADAS.
The UK rapeseed harvest is now almost 50 per cent complete after the earliest start in the last five or six years. At this stage last year the rapeseed harvest had not even started.
Traders expect a rapeseed crop of around 2.5 million tonnes, up from last season’s 2.13 million.