French winter sowings face second washout as more rain expected

6 Oct 2020 | Alex Riabukha

Abundant rain through the end of September and early October could damage the development of winter plantings in France and repeat the disastrous start to the 2019 sowing campaign, which led to one of the country's lowest harvests on record, trade sources warned Tuesday. 

Heavy rains have already dogged sowing activity through the last half of September, with some parts of the country facing devastation as over 80 mm of rain has fallen in just the last 15 days. 

With more rainfall still expected in the days ahead, the country could be facing a significant delay to the winter sowing campaign, potentially damaging next year's harvest.

“Farmers are more and more worried about the situation. They all have in mind the disaster of last year. Rain from October to the first day of the Covid restriction on March 14th, and then no more rain until July,” a France-based source told Agricensus.

The French agriculture ministry currently expects 2020 wheat production will fall to 29.4 million mt, down 25.5% year-on-year and 16.5% from the five-year average, after crops were hit by excessive rains through the final quarter of the year.

That was then compounded by drought through the first half of 2020.

For southwestern France, plantings will usually continue until mid-November, meaning there is still time for crops to recover despite the heavy rain.

“The weather is still rainy today but we should have drier weather in the coming days so I'm not worried about wheat plantings right now,” another France-based source said.

But in the north, the grain basket of the country, sowings are usually completed earlier, meaning crops could have less time to recover if the rain does not stop.

“The situation is a bit more touchy in the north of France where they'd like to be done with plantings before the end of October. The fields will need a few days to dry up and if it turns rainy again then the situation could become a real problem there,” a source said.

Forecasts expect rain in the coming 10 days, with the outlook ranging from 5.2 mm in northwest France to as much as 88 mm or more in the northeast of the country.