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PARIS: Farmers in France, the European Union's largest grain producer, will harvest their second largest soft wheat crop in history this year at 39.17 million tonnes, as a record-breaking heatwave failed to hurt yields, consultancy Agritel said on Tuesday.

That would be up 14.9% from last year's weather-hit crop.

Agritel projected the national yield of the ongoing harvest at 7.82 tonnes per hectare, 12% above last year's poor crop and 7.5% above the average of the past five years when excluding the exceptionally high and low harvests in 2015 and 2016.

"Although the harvest is not fully over in the regions near the Channel, reported yields remain particularly good, completely wiping out concerns of an impact of the end-of-cycle heatwave on grain filling," Agritel Director General Michel Portier said in a statement.

The area sown also rose, up 2.66% to 5 million hectares, its highest level in three years, Agritel said.

Trade and producer estimates for the French crop have risen regularly in the past weeks as results from the harvest showed good yields in most parts of the country.

Soufflet, one of France's largest grain exporters, on Friday estimated this year's French soft wheat crop at between 38 and 39 million tonnes but stressed that between 20% and 25% of the crop still had to be harvested.

The French farm ministry had forecast 37 million tonnes at the start of the month.

France's 2019 soft wheat average protein level - a key measure of milling quality - was satisfactory and should meet export standards, Agritel said, without giving an estimate.

Agritel's forecast was based on a nationwide survey conducted on July 26-30.

Hot, dry conditions in the past weeks have led to a quick harvest pace, with farm office FranceAgriMer estimating 63% of soft wheat had been gathered by July 22, up from 33% percent a week earlier.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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