France’s grain maize area is expected to increase by nearly 10% this year as farmers pivot to spring varieties following heavy rain that affected winter crops, according to the country’s farm ministry.

In its initial projection for 2024 maize planting, the ministry forecast that farmers would plant 1.44m hectares of grain maize, including crops grown for seeds, up 9.6% from last year. Despite this increase, the area remains 5% below the average of the past five years and is the second-smallest in the past three decades, according to ministry data.

Farmers are currently in the middle of the maize planting season. While initial rain delays had cast doubt on the extent of the shift towards maize, a recent warm, dry spell is expected to have facilitated fieldwork.

The ministry’s report confirmed an anticipated rise in the area for spring crops, compensating for the decline in winter crops that were not sown due to adverse weather conditions.

Maize had lost popularity in recent years due to unattractive prices, high input costs, and frequent droughts and heatwaves during its key summer growth period.

Additionally, the ministry increased its estimate for spring barley sowing to 502,000 hectares from last month’s projection of 496,000 hectares. This figure is 12.2% above last year’s level but 15.8% below the five-year average.