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PARIS: The condition of French wheat and barley declined sharply in the week to April 26, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed on Friday, suggesting a growing impact from dry, cold weather this month.

Most crops nonetheless remained in good shape and above year-earlier levels, the data showed.

A dry spring so far in much of France, coupled with unusually severe frosts in early April, has raised concern in grain markets that the harvest potential in the European Union’s biggest crop producer may be reduced. For soft wheat, France’s most produced cereal, 81% of crops were rated good or excellent in the week to April 26 against 85% a week earlier, FranceAgriMer said in a cereal crop report.

That was still well above a 57% score at the same point last season when crops suffered from torrential rain.

Durum wheat, the variety used in pasta, saw a steeper decline, with the good/excellent score dropping by eight points to 69%, now close to the year-earlier rating of 65%. The winter barley rating shed four points to 77% while the spring barley score fell by five points to 82%.

Traders and analysts are watching to see if showers this week and more widespread rain forecast for next week will reach parched crop belts in northern and western France.

The prospect of improved moisture supported a sharp fall in Euronext wheat futures on Thursday, following contract highs this week.

For grain maize, farmers had planted 71% of the expected area, up from 41% a week earlier and now slightly ahead of year-earlier progress of 68%, FranceAgriMer’s data showed.