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France slashes sugar beet crop forecast on disease, drought

11/16/2020 | 05:11am EST

* Farm ministry cuts sugar beet forecast by 10% to 27.2 mln T

* Jaundice disease, summer drought continue to shrink yields

* Soft wheat crop trimmed again, maize crop estimate unchanged

PARIS, Nov 16 (Reuters) - France's farm ministry on Monday cut by 10% its forecast for the country's ongoing sugar beet harvest as it factored in further effects of crop disease and drought.

This year's sugar beet crop was now projected at 27.2 million tonnes, down from 30.5 million expected last month and 28% below 2019 output, the ministry said in a monthly crop report.

The ministry had already reduced its sugar beet forecast by 1.7 million tonnes last month due to the impact of jaundice disease, which is spread by aphids, and summer drought.

Sugar companies had delayed production runs at some factories to give crops a chance to recoup yield, but harvesting has shown worse than expected results in some zones.

The average sugar beet yield this year was now seen at 64.9 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), down from 85.1 t/ha last year and the lowest since 2001, the ministry said.

It kept unchanged its forecast for this year's grain maize production, excluding seeds, at 13.5 million tonnes, up 5.7% compared with last year.

It revised down the projected grain maize yield, to 8.36 t/ha from 8.54 t/ha last month, which was offset by an increase to the estimated crop area to 1.613 million hectares from 1.583 million.

For soft wheat, France's main cereal crop, the ministry trimmed its production estimate to 29.1 million tonnes from 29.2 million last month, confirming a steep fall in output linked to periods of torrential rain and drought.

The soft wheat crop was 26% below last year's volume and 18.5% less than the average of the past five years.

The ministry kept unchanged its estimates for this year's barley and rapeseed crops, also dented by adverse weather.

Barley output was seen at 10.5 million tonnes, down 23.5% from last year, and rapeseed production at 3.3 million tonnes, 7.6% lower than last year and nearly a third below the five-year average. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Forrest Crellin, editing by Sybille de La Hamaide and Mark Potter)

© Reuters 2020
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