Poor weather has left the French farmers counting the cost this year, with estimates for cereal, oil-seed and sugar lowered last week.
France’s farm ministry, in its monthly crop report, reduced the expected maize crop – with harvesting currently underway – from 14.1 million tonnes to 13.5 million tonnes.
However, due to a larger area of farm land being given over to maize growing this year, the eventual yield is still anticipated to be six per cent above last year’s by volume and four per cent better than the five-year average.
The sugar beet crop estimate has been similarly lowered by the ministry from the 32.2 million tonnes suggested last month to 30.5 million tonnes now.
Over all, that puts the figure for sugar beet some 20 per cent below last year’s harvest.
The figure for the reduction in soft wheat harvest is comparatively smaller, from 29.5 million tonnes to 29.2 million tonnes – that, however, makes it down 26 per cent by volume on last year and 18 per cent below the five-year average.
It is very much in line with the prediction that the EU’s total grain crop this year will be one of its lowest in years.
The ministry cut its barley harvest forecast to 10.5 million tonnes from 11.0 million last month.
The estimate is now 23 per cent below last year’s crop and down 13 per cent on the five-year average.
It pegged the rapeseed crop at 3.27 million tonnes, down seven per cent on last year and 32 per cent below the five-year average.
The figures were released in the same week the French government announced a partial ban on the weedkiller glyphosate. Its use is to be phased out by January 1 except where it is considered that no viable alternative exists.
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) said glyphosate will be banned for use on arable crops, including cereals, oilseed rape and sunflowers.
The maximum annual dosage rate has also been reduced by 60 per cent for crops and orchards, and 80 per cent for vineyards.
Exceptions to the ban include where use of mechanical tools is impractical due to stony ground or steep slopes; the removal of perennial weeds that are difficult to eliminate, or conservation agriculture which does not use ploughing to preserve the soil.
Glyphosate-based weedkillers have been blamed on causing cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though manufacturers’ continue to defend them.
The ban on their use comes after French president Emmanuel Macron vowed, in December 2017, to end the use of glyphosate within three years.
The move, however, is not popular among the farming community, with arguments that no viable alternatives are available.