PARIS Widespread frosts during an unseasonably cold spell in Europe this month may have damaged some rapeseed crops that already endured dry conditions, which could limit a rebound in production after last year's disappointing harvest.
Strategie Grains cut a forecast for European Union rapeseed production in 2017 by 340,000 tonnes to 21.4 million on Friday, factoring in the impact of cold, dry conditions.
Fellow analysts ODA Groupe, meanwhile, currently project the EU crop at 20.5 million tonnes, closer to the four-year low of 20 million harvested in 2016.
In Germany, there was concern freezing temperatures have hurt flowering crops in the south and center of the country.
In cutting its EU-wide outlook, Strategie Grains made its biggest revision in Germany, reducing its forecast by 110,000 tonnes to 5.14 million.
This was still higher than the forecast from Germany's farm cooperatives, issued on April 12 prior to the cold spell, of 4.93 million tonnes, up 7.1 percent from last year.
"It is not possible today to say how serious any damage is, but frost on rapeseed flowers is likely to cause problems," one German analyst said.
"But rapeseed in the biggest production regions in north and eastern Germany was not blooming much at the time of the frosts, any damage is likely to be concentrated in south and central Germany."
Frosts are again forecast in Germany up to Sunday, with temperatures rising from Monday.
In France, forecasters also trimmed expectations due to the combination of dryness and frost during flowering. ODA said it has lowered its French outlook by 170,000 tonnes compared to a month ago to 4.3 million tonnes, down from 4.7 million in 2016.
"Rapeseed does have a strong capacity to recover in normal conditions but that's not the case currently. The rain we've had in France is not sufficient. We need more rainfall to support the growth of new flower buds," ODA's Antoine Gautier said.
Some showers are forecast in France in the week ahead while frost will fade from this weekend.
In Poland, three was also some concern about cold damage.
Analysts Sparks Polska have reduced their 2017 crop forecast by about 100,000 tonnes to 2.8 million due to the cold, still up 33 percent from last year's very poor crop.
"The cold occurred prior to the flowering stage, so the impact should not be major, we hope," Wojtek Sabaranski of Sparks Polska said.
In Britain, rapeseed was generally in reasonable condition, in contrast to crops like spring barley where dry weather is becoming a major concern.
Analyst Jack Watts of Britain's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said farmers in west-central England were "really optimistic about their rapeseed this year," adding those in eastern regions, however, were struggling to grow the crop.
Problems with cabbage stem flea beetle has led to a westerly shift in rapeseed plantings in England.
(Reporting by Valerie Parent and Gus Trompiz in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London, editing by David Evans)