EU rapeseed in good shape despite early problems

Despite repeated frosts in Germany, production still seen above last year

Blooming rapeseed field at sunset

Rapeseed crops in the European Union’s largest producers are in reasonable condition despite the double blows of drought and late-spring frosts, experts said May 18.

A question mark remains over crops in the third-largest producer, Poland, where frosts in early May hit rapeseed at a vulnerable time as hundreds of thousands of hectares of yellow flowers were blooming.

“I think EU rapeseed will get away with a black eye after being hit by drought and frosts,” one trader said. “A 2017 EU crop of about 21 million tonnes is still expected, up from 20.5 million tonnes in 2016.”

In France, rapeseed is mostly in reasonable condition, after rain since late April ended drought.

“The overall situation is average to good in terms of yield potential,” said Fabien Lagarde of oilseed institute Terres Inovia. “Rapeseed is showing once again its powers of recovery.”

France’s crop will also be curbed this year by a sharp drop in sown area.

Recent frosts damaged some German rapeseed, but Germany’s 2017 crop will still be up on the year and plants are in decent shape, the country’s association of farm co-operatives said.

The association cut its forecast for Germany’s 2017 winter rapeseed crop to 4.68 million tonnes from 4.93 million tonnes in its previous forecast in April. That would still be up by 1.5 per cent on 2016.

German rapeseed was hit by repeated frosts in late April and early May when plants were flowering and official estimates of the sown area have also been cut.

The impact of early-May frosts in Poland is still unknown, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

“It is quite likely that we will face some winterkill on rapeseed plantations, especially in the central and northwestern parts of the country,” Sabaranski said. “It’s hard to determine the scale of winterkill at the moment, but the winterkill in the country as a whole is not likely to be as severe as last year.”

Sparks tentatively forecasts the rapeseed crop at 2.7 million to 2.8 million tonnes, up from 2.2 million tonnes in 2016.

Britain’s rapeseed crop appears in reasonable condition with little evidence of frost damage although moisture is urgently needed after rainfall in April was less than half the average.

“The crop still looks fairly good,” said analyst Sarah Wynn of crop consultants ADAS. “Although we’ve had some late frost, at this stage it does not appear to have caused much damage.”

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