Unusually warm winter weather in western Europe means wheat has escaped major frost damage in leading producers, creating pre-conditions for a large harvest this summer, observers said on Friday.
"Frost damage is still possible for a couple more weeks but the threat level is decreasing each day," one German analyst said. "The stage has been set for a good harvest, now we need favourable spring and summer weather."
The European Union's largest wheat producer and exporter, France, is on course for another big harvest this year and crops are in excellent shape after unusually warm weather in the second largest producer, Germany.
Some 91 percent of French soft wheat was in good or excellent condition on Mar. 9, up from 75 percent a year ago and the highest rating at this stage in five years, said farm agency FranceAgriMer.
"The mild winter allowed steady growth for later-sown crops," said Paul Gaffet of agricultural consultancy ODA. "There have not been any setbacks during winter and we envisage a harvest that will be as big as last year's."
ODA's current estimate is for a French 2015 crop of 37.5 million tonnes, equalling 2014 output, while Strategie Grains estimates 37.4 million tonnes.
FranceAgriMer estimates soft wheat sowings at 5.1 million hectares, up 2.6 percent on the year.
In Germany, "frost damage has hardly been reported anywhere," one analyst said. "The likelihood of deep frosts is greatly reduced after mid-March, a great relief to farmers as wheat is very susceptible to frost damage because the mild autumn meant plants were in a more advanced growth phase than normal."
Germany's winter wheat sown area for the 2015 harvest has expanded by 2.8 percent to 3.24 million hectares.
As for the third largest EU producer, "The UK is looking good from the south to the north," said Guy Gagen, chief arable advisor to the National Farmers' Union.
However, Britain's Home-Grown Cereals Authority estimates the wheat area in England and Wales fell by around 7 percent on the year to 1.69 million hectares.
This reflects a switch to more spring-planted crops which tend to produce lower yields but can help control black-grass, a weed which can reduce wheat yields and has become widespread in England. Spring crops can also help farmers meet new EU rules encouraging crop diversity.
In Poland, the fourth largest producer, winter wheat is in "good to very good" condition in most regions, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.
Polish farmers were able to plant winter wheat at the best time and root systems are strongly developed, he said.
Sparks Polska estimates the wheat acreage of all types at 2.38 million hectares, up 2 percent from last year.