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EU grain crops seen lower but quality high
PARIS , European Union grain harvest results show that a heat-wave in much of the bloc has slashed yields, but quality is set to rise significantly, analysts said on Wednesday.
"In terms of quality, it's going well, even very well," Gerard Maurice, head of the regional teams at France's Arvalis crop institute, told Reuters.
"For wheat, yields are lower but protein levels are good and so are the other quality parameters," he said, adding that some 60 to 70 percent of the wheat crop had been harvested in France.
French grain office ONIC and other groups including Arvalis said last week that wheat protein levels were high in all regions, with most averaging around 12 percent, and that specific weights were also good at 76-80 kg per hectolitre.
But they confirmed that the average yield would be between 10 and 15 percent lower than in 2002 due to the heat-wave in June and early July.
ONIC pegged the French 2003 wheat crop down 15 percent on last year at 31.71 million tonnes.
Arvalis said the spring barley harvested so far also showed good quality, with most meeting malting criteria.
In Germany the wheat harvest is also expected down on the year but the country is not facing a disaster despite demands for emergency financial aid for farmers, analysts said.
"We will have a below-average wheat harvest but it will not be a catastrophe, in fact parts of it are looking pretty good," one analyst said, while stressing that it was still difficult to have a national overview.
Analysts forecast a German winter wheat harvest of about 19 million tonnes, down from 20.8 million last year.
"Yields are generally down but wheat quality could actually be considerably better than last year with much more reaching bread standard," one analyst said.
Last year's German crop was generally poor quality because of rain damage and much wheat could only be sold as feed.
The wheat harvest is about two weeks ahead of scheduled and is nearing completion in parts of south and central Germany and is about to start in parts of the north.
Britain's wheat crop - whose harvest was expected to move up a gear next week - was also seen of good quality.
"I expect quality to be quite good for all types of wheat and barley," John Garstang of leading British crop consultants ADAS said.
But estimates for UK wheat production this year are still wide in range at 14-15.2 million tonnes, down from 16.2 million in 2002.
Despite local rain interruptions, Britain's 2003 barley harvest picked up speed in recent days, with almost 40 percent of the crop now cleared from the fields.
Traders expect UK barley output to be 200,000 tonnes lower than last season, at 6 million tonnes.
In Spain, where the wheat and barley harvests are now more than half-finished, grain crops were expected to be higher than in 2002, although only slightly, according to farmers. The quality was also seen as good.
The Agriculture Ministry expects wheat output to grow by 4.5 percent from last year to 7.1 million tonnes, and barley to increase by 16.2 percent to 9.7 million tonnes.
MGR Archive 24.7.2003
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