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UPDATE 1-French wheat, barley crops still ahead of usual growth pace

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PARIS, Nov 25 (Reuters) - French soft wheat and winter barley crops are still about a week ahead of their usual rate of development following a mild autumn, data from farm office FranceAgriMer showed on Friday.

Soft wheat in France, the European Union's biggest grain producer, had emerged from the ground on about 93% of the expected crop area by Nov. 21, with the median date of emergence six days earlier than the average of the past five years, FranceAgriMer said in a weekly cereal report.

Soft wheat crops on 38% of the area had also reached the subsequent tillering stage, when shoots start to form from the stem, compared with just 7% a year ago, the office said.

For winter barley, crops had emerged on 97% of the area and development pace was seven days ahead of the five-year average.

Crops had started tillering on 59% of the area versus 21% a year ago.

Early development of cereals crop has been boosted by an exceptionally warm October and regular rain that has eased the effects of summer drought.

The fast initial growth has raised concern about crops being vulnerable to frost, although a progressive cooling in temperatures expected in the week ahead may slow development and improve plants' hardiness.

Nearly all soft wheat and winter barley remained in good shape, with 98% of crops for both varieties rated as being in good or excellent condition, according to FranceAgriMer.

Farmers had almost finished sowing soft wheat and winter barley, with 98% and 99% of the expected areas, respectively, planted by Nov. 21, the office said.

For durum wheat, the variety used in pasta, sowing was 84% complete and crops had emerged on 58% of the area. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Potter)

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