The French soft wheat crop accelerated its decline, realising concerns that recent rains were insufficient revive a crop tested by what is expected to register as the country’s hottest May on record.

FranceAgriMer, the official French ag bureau, rated 73% of domestic soft wheat in “good” or “excellent” condition as of Monday, a tumble of nine points week on week.

That exceeded the seven-point dip the previous week to rate as the fastest one-week decline since 2016 in the wheat condition reading.

A crop which entered the month with the highest early-May condition score since 2015 is now the lowest rated in that timescale, bar 2020, when France recorded a plunge of more than 10.0m tonnes, to 29.2m tonnes, in its soft wheat production.

Record breaker

The latest decline comes amid a prolonged hot spell which has already brought new temperature highs to many areas, and for the country as a whole is expected by Meteo-France to rank as France’s hottest May ever, exceeding the record set in 2011 when crops suffered a particular deterioration.

Then, the soft wheat condition more than halved during May – from 55% good or excellent heading into the month to 24% by the close – although this score, in the first year of FranceAgriMer’s weekly ratings scheme, was not reflected in the resulting harvest.

The 2011 soft wheat yield, at 6.8m tonnes per hectares, fell by only some 0.4 tonnes per hectare year on year.

‘Extremely large differences in yields’

Friday’s reading realised concerns that rains received last week proved insufficient to halt deterioration in most parts of the country.

Of France’s 16 reporting regions, 14 saw wheat crop deterioration week on week, with the other two recorded stable condition scores.

The regions seeing the fastest deterioration week on week were two where crops had proved relatively resilient, with the score for Hauts-de-France, in the north east, down 15 points at 77% good or excellent, and for Pays-de-la-Loire, in the north west, down 16 points at 81%.

Further rainfall is expected, although according to Agritel, which said that the “water deficit is persistent”, it is “probably not the few storms expected today and early next week that will fundamentally change things”.

The analysis group added that “it is very likely that at harvest time there will be extremely large differences in yields depending on the region and the type of soil”.