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Crop ratings for French wheat and barley fell sharply last week while farmers made little progress with sowing and harvesting, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed, suggesting heavy rain was continuing to affect field conditions.

An estimated 78% of soft wheat, France's main cereal crop, was rated good or excellent in the week to Nov. 18, down from 84% a week earlier and below an 82% score in the same week last year, FranceAgriMer's weekly crop report showed.

French farmers had completed 74% of soft wheat sowing for next year's harvest, up from 71% a week earlier but below the 97% progress seen a year ago, the report said.

Soft wheat sowing was running eight days behind the average pace of the past five years, it said.

Grain maize harvest progress also remained slow, with 88% of the crop gathered compared with 84% a week earlier.

The maize harvest was also showing an eight-day lag compared with the five-year average and was running 20 days behind last year's crop, when harvesting had already finished by the same stage.

Some analysts expect wet weather in France and other western European countries like Britain to reduce the winter wheat and barley area.

Traders in France also flag the risk of late-harvested maize developing mycotoxin mould, which can lead to crops being rejected.

Nationwide rainfall in France during October was 40% above average, according to public weather service Meteo France, and November has seen more frequent showers along with snowfall in some regions amid cooler than normal temperatures.

Field conditions have been particularly difficult in southwest France, where part of the region recorded the equivalent of normal November rainfall in the first half of the month, according to Meteo France.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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