French wheat, barley crop ratings ease, maize sowing picks up
PARIS, April 23 (Reuters) - The condition of French wheat and barley crops deteriorated marginally for a second week but was still good, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed on Friday, suggesting a moderate impact so far from recent cold, dry spells.
An estimated 85% of French soft wheat was in good or excellent condition in the week to April 19, down from 86% the prior week and 87% two weeks earlier, according to FranceAgriMer's cereal crop progress report.
The good/excellent score for winter barley fell to 81% from 83% after also shedding two points the week before, while the spring barley rating lost one point to 87% after a sharper four-point decline the week before.
The wheat and barley ratings remained well above levels seen last year when crops were hurt by torrential rain during sowing.
Unusually severe frosts in France two weeks ago ravaged vineyards, fruit orchards and sugar beet fields, with losses expected to be more limited for cereals.
FranceAgriMer's cereal reports do not give commentary on crop conditions. The head of the offices crop committee told reporters last week that there was concern about damage in parts of central and southern France, but it would take time to measure.
A thawing in temperatures helped grain maize sowing accelerate last week. Farmers had planted 41% of the expected area by April 19 against 18% the prior week, although still lagging year-earlier progress of 50%, FranceAgriMer said.
A lack of rain since March in France, the European Union's biggest grain producer, is also becoming a concern for analysts. After more dry weather this week, widespread showers were not forecast until at least the middle of next week.
TABLE-French cereal crop progress for week to April 19
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Forrest Crellin; editing by David Evans and Susan Fenton)
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