French Farmers May Face More Pain as Dry Weather Hits Corn Crops

(Bloomberg) -- French farmers can’t seem to catch a break from the weather.

After deluges earlier this year decimated wheat crops, now not enough rain is threatening their corn. Many fields in the European Union’s top grower have been drier than normal since July. Southwest and west-central areas, which account for about 60 percent of output, should remain dry in the next 10 days and risk cutting yields, AccuWeather Inc. and Commodity Weather Group said.

More unfavorable conditions would be a further blow for the country’s farmers, with many suffering losses after floods cut wheat yields to a three-decade low and damaged grain quality. While corn has passed July’s critical development stage, too much hot and dry weather now may cut ear size and lower output, which the Agriculture Ministry says will be 13 percent below the five-year average. The southwest may be among the most affected by dry weather.

“We could see yields coming off by 10 to 20 percent in this region this year because of the hot, dry weather,” said Dale Mohler, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather in Pennsylvania. “Farmers in the area are going to feel the impact and France as a country might too.”

Worst Conditions

The driest, hottest weather will be in south-west regions including Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees where rainfall will be 75 percent below normal in the next 10 days, Mohler said. There’s little chance of rains in west-central regions, which comprise a quarter of the corn belt, Commodity Weather Group said.

More hot weather means there’s a risk production may drop to 13 million tons this year, according to Paris-based farm adviser Agritel. About 40 percent of French corn is irrigated, with the rest relying on rains.

“If the hot, dry weather in France continues to persist for more than one week, it could impact yields and support prices as the market has not priced it in yet,” said Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt.

Ample global supplies have depressed prices. French corn futures dropped 12 percent since mid-June on Euronext in Paris while benchmark prices in Chicago are near a two-year low amid expectations for a record U.S. crop.

In France, conditions are getting worse. Sixty-three percent of corn received the top ratings as of Aug. 15, down from 68 percent a week earlier, FranceAgriMer data show. The EU’s Monitoring Agricultural Resources unit on Monday cut its French yield estimate by 3.6 percent to 8.83 tons per hectare.

“This year, we will have a below-average yield again,” said Matthieu Caldumbide, deputy director of corn growers’ association AGPM. “It’s still early, we need to see how the corn that’s irrigated develops.”