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PARIS: The condition of France’s soft wheat crop has declined for a fifth consecutive week, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed on Friday, as dryness persisted in the European Union’s biggest grain producer.

An estimated 67% of the soft wheat crop was in good or excellent condition in the week to May 30, down from 69% the previous week, FranceAgriMer said in a cereal report. The rating fell by more than 20 percentage points in May as a hot spell exacerbated drought after low rainfall since the start of the year.

However, the decline in conditions last week was smaller than in the three preceding weeks, suggesting showers and cooler temperatures gave some respite to crops. The latest soft wheat rating compared with a year-earlier score of 80%, FranceAgriMer said. Harvest prospects in France are being watched closely amid disruption to Ukrainian supplies following Russia’s invasion.

Traders and analysts say drought has damaged French crops in areas with shallow soil but that conditions are much more promising in areas with deep soil that have had some rainfall.

Regional data in FranceAgriMer’s cereal report confirmed local contrasts. In the Centre-Val de Loire region south of Paris, just 43% of the soft wheat crop was rated good/excellent, while in the Hauts-de-France, another key production zone in the far north, the score was 71%.

Unsettled weather with showers forecast for the end of this week could help crops, according to traders. Crop conditions for French barley and durum wheat also declined further.

Spring barley again showed the steepest weekly fall, with the good/excellent score losing 7 percentage points to 54%, FranceAgriMer’s data showed. The good/excellent rating for recently sown maize crops was unchanged from the previous week at 91%.

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