Oilseed market analysts predict the European Union's 2012 rapeseed crop will drop to an estimated five-year low following a particularly harsh winter.
The Reuters news service on Tuesday quoted Hamburg-based Oil World as pegging the EU rapeseed crop at 18.48 million tonnes.
That's down sharply from 19.1 million tonnes harvested in 2011 and from Oil World's previous 2012 forecast, 19.2 million tonnes.
"A disaster is shaping up for this year's rapeseed production in some parts of the European Union," Oil World was quoted as saying.
"Alarming reports have been received in recent days from Germany, Poland and France pointing to greater-than-expected damage from winter killing."
Oil World CEO Thomas Mielke told Reuters the expected poor crop would create greater competition between global rapeseed-importing countries in the 2012-13 season --- and some excellent sales opportunities for exporters.
"This could create a new competition scenario between the various rapeseed importing countries, especially should the worldwide export supplies of rapeseed and canola be insufficient," he said.
Following a poor crop in 2011, Oil World expects the EU to be the world's largest rapeseed importer in 2011-12, followed by Japan, China, Mexico and Pakistan.
Much of the global supply picture will depend on the development of the crops in key exporters Australia and Canada, both of which will have excellent sales prospects on global markets, analysts said.
"The way things are looking with the current crop forecasts is that the European food processing and biodiesel industry will again be facing tight rapeseed supplies and so possible high prices in the new season," Reuters quoted grains and oilseeds analyst Wienke von Schenck of AMI as saying.
Among rapeseed-growing nations, Poland's crop is expected to drop by 20,000 tonnes to 1.85 million from last year, with smaller crops also predicted from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Germany's 2012 crop still is forecast to rise to 4.4 million tonnes from 3.8 million tonnes last year, Oil World said. France and Britain are expected to see their harvests each drop by about 100,000 tonnes, to 5.2 million and 2.6 million tonnes respectively.