France sees maize area up nearly 10% in shift to spring crops

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 3:54 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s grain maize area will jump by nearly 10% this year as farmers shift to spring varieties after heavy rain hit winter crops, the farm ministry forecast on Wednesday.

In its first projection on 2024 maize planting, the ministry forecast that farmers would plant 1.44 million hectares of grain maize, including crop grown for seeds, up 9.6% from last year.

That is still 5% below the average of the past five years.

Farmers are in the middle of the maize planting campaign. Initial rain delays had raised doubts over the extent to which growers would switch towards maize, however a warm, dry spell last week is expected to have helped field work.

The ministry said in a report that its cereal estimates “confirm the expected rise in area for spring crops, linked to the decline for winter crops that were not sown because of adverse weather”.

It increased its estimate of spring barley sowing to 502,000 hectares from an initial projection of 496,000 hectares last month. That is 12.2% above last year’s level though 15.8% below the five-year average.

For soft wheat, the ministry increased its estimate of the 2024 area to 4.40 million hectares from 4.39 million estimated in April, which is still 7.5% below last year’s level.

For rapeseed, the estimated area was kept unchanged at 1.33 million hectares, down 0.8% from 2023.

Wheat and rapeseed are almost exclusively winter crops in France

For sugar beet, sown at the start of spring, the ministry trimmed its 2024 area estimate to 398,000 hectares from its April forecast of 399,000, still 4.6% higher than last year.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Jason Neely)