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Mild, wet weather revives EU wheat after slow start in dry soil

* French wheat recovering from dryness, early cold spell

* Rain also helping British crops

* Dryness still a concern in Germany, Poland

* Easing of drought seen supporting rise in EU wheat area

PARIS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Rain in many parts of the European Union including top producer France has revived lagging wheat crops but dry soils are still hampering development in central Europe after a summer drought, analysts said.

Consultancy Strategie Grains sees EU soft wheat sowings for the 2019 harvest rising to 24.3 million hectares, up 6 percent from 2018, helped by much-needed rains across western and northern parts of the EU in November.

Analysts say a sharp drop in rapeseed sowing, disrupted by the drought, has also left more room for later-sown wheat.

EU crop monitor MARS said this week that favourable conditions for sowing and emergence of winter crops had prevailed in most of western and northern Europe but dry soil was hampering crop development further east.

In France, dry soil prompted farmers to delay wheat sowings, which are now over, with crops then penalised by cold weather.

But mild weather over the past week in most of France has boosted plant development, reducing risks of damage in case of a sudden drop in temperatures, Jean-Charles Deswartes from crop institute Arvalis said.

"It is still too early to say if there will be a catch-up but the return of milder temperatures is favourable," he said.

Crop ratings published by farm office FranceAgriMer show soft wheat conditions have been stable in the past two weeks after starting at a six-year low.

RESOWING

In Germany, the EU's second largest wheat producer, the wheat area is expected to increase to about 3.3 million hectares from 2.9 million harvested this summer, one analyst said.

"The dry autumn meant a sharp reduction in rapeseed sowings and some of this looks like being transferred to winter wheat," the analyst said.

"Dryness means wheat may not have achieved the growth hoped for in some regions, which means there is increased risk that wheat has not achieved enough strength to get though major frosts," he said.

But if wheat resowings are needed they can be undertaken until around Christmas so there is still time, he said.

In Poland, wheat development looks satisfactory, said Wojtek Sabaranski of analysts Sparks Polska.

"As in Germany, there are concerns about the condition of winter wheat, especially in the northwest due to dry weather," Sabaranski said. "Recent weather was conducive to gradual plant hardening prior to the dormancy period."

Sabaranski estimates Poland's plantings at about 2 million hectares, up around 5 percent from the acreage planted for the 2018 harvest.

Wheat crops in Britain are generally in good shape after recent rains, Rupert Somerscales, a consultant with ODA, said.

"The drains are not flowing particularly strongly after the summer drought, so while immediately they have issues with a little bit too much rain for the soil structure, overall the subsoil is still a couple of inches deficit because of what happened in the summer," he said.

(Reporting by Valerie Parent in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London Writing by Sybille de La Hamaide Editing by Edmund Blair)

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