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PARIS: French farmers had nearly finished harvesting this year’s soft wheat crop by Monday, as field work wound down in northerly zones after a rain-disrupted harvest, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed.

Farmers had cut 99% of the soft wheat area by Aug. 30 compared with 96% the previous week, the office said in a cereal crop report on Friday.

Harvest progress remained two weeks behind the pace last year and 11 days slower than the average pace of the past five years, it said.

In the northerly Hauts-de-France region, a major production belt, the harvest had advanced to 97% complete from 89% the previous week, while in Normandy it was 96% done against 85% a week earlier, the office estimated.

Harvesting was already complete in other regions.

Heavy summer rain led to repeated harvest delays in France, the European Union’s biggest grain producer, and damaged some wheat crops, notably in terms of milling quality for export.

Grain firms are still sorting wheat from the late-running harvest to assess the scale of quality losses.

Production is expected to recover from last year’s poor volume. However, consultancy Agritel last week pegged output well below the farm ministry’s current estimate, suggesting that adverse weather had also hurt yields.

For grain maize, which is harvested in autumn, growing conditions were stable, with 91% of the crop rated good or excellent like a week earlier, FranceAgriMer said.

The rating compared with just 61% a year ago when drought hurt maize crops.

Dry weather in late August has raised some concern about stress to maize but temperatures have been moderate and moisture seen as adequate until rain is due to return next week.

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