Fiche Technique

French cereals

17-06-2016 maïs

Etat des lieux général

720 million hectares of cereals are grown throughout the world, the equivalent of 51% of arable agricultural land, 14.6% of global agricultural land and 5.5% of emerging farmland across the world. China is the world’s leading producer with 492.9 million tonnes, closely followed by the United States with 439.4 million tonnes then Europe with 329.1 million tonnes. In 2015, maize was the world’s most produced cereal accounting for 40% of global production, followed by wheat (29%) and rice (19%).


France’s cereal production is commercialised in a number of ways. Out of the 72.4 million tonnes produced, 44% goes to exported grains, 16% to animal feed, 11% farm consumption and stocks, 9% for human consumption, 9% to processed food exports, 3% for industrial uses (wheat starch and gluten), 3% for bioethanol and finally 4% for other uses (seeds and shrinkage).

For 2011/12, 10.4 million tonnes of cereals were used in the animal feed industry, which is the largest user of cereal grains. The sector also uses the majority of coproducts from processing.

Flour production is used mainly in food consumption, accounting for more than 98% of flour use. 62.4% of flour production sold in France – 2.66 million tonnes – is used to make bread.

Accounting for 36.8% of the total production of flour, the equivalent of 1.4 million tonnes, artisan bread makers are France’s main consumer of flour. Aside from bread, other industries such as biscuits and crackers use more than 1.2 million tonnes of flour (28.2%).


France is the world’s second largest exporter of cereals after the USA. In 2015, France exported 35.8 million tonnes of cereals, worth a staggering 6.7 billion euros and the equivalent of selling 9 Airbus A320 every month. French exports of soft wheat within the EU were slightly down for the 2015/16 year. In contrast, exports to countries outside Europe increased to 12 million tonnes, compared to 11.4 million tonnes in 2014/15. French exports were much more buoyant in the second half of the campaign. In addition, in coming months, countries in the Maghreb area (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania) are likely to import greater quantities of wheat as yields in Morocco and Tunisia are predicted to be in short supply, due to drought.

The animal feed industry in France comprises 200 companies, 300 factories and generates 12,000 jobs. Turnover for these companies reached 6.3 billion euros in 2011. With more than 21 million tonnes of food produced annually, France is Europe’s second supplier, following Germany and beating Spain to third place.

France is the EU’s leading producer and exporter of soft wheat.

Breakdown of French grain exports

Soft wheat 19.4 million tonnes
Barley: 6.6 million tonnes
Maize 8 million tonnes
Wheat 1.3 million tonnes
Others: 0.4 million tonnes

France is also the world’s leading producer of malt. The French malting industry exports 80% of its production, equating to 1.2 million tonnes each year. France is the world’s second largest exporter of malting barley.

Close up of ripe wheat ears


France produced more than 72 million tonnes of cereals in 2014, worth 11.15 billion euros, and is the European Union’s leading producer of cereals. 9.6 million hectares of cereals are cultivated in France. This represents 18% of France’s surface area and half of France’s farms (270,000).

In France, production of soft wheat in 2015 reached a record high of an estimated 41 million tonnes, an increase of 10% on the previous year and +14% compared to the 2010-2014 average. In addition, the area cultivating winter wheat in 2016 has increased marginally to the detriment of spring wheat. Based on crop conditions at the end of April, yields for the 2016 harvest are generally good.

A savoir

25,000 is the number of 250g baguettes made from a hectare of soft wheat, the equivalent of 5.5 tonnes of flour.


Coop de France Nutrition Animale, SNIA