February 14, 2014


EU to see more wheat exports in 2014-15



The EU expects to see a relatively strong year for wheat exports in 2014-15, despite diminished harvest expectations, as French-based analysis group, Strategie Grains, raised its forecast for shipments by 1.2 million tonnes.


The group also lifted its forecast for EU soft wheat exports to 21.7 million tonnes, in the season starting in July.


Although a historically high number, the figure represents a drop from the 24.3 million tonnes expected for this season, reflecting a scenario of growing supplies in several major exporting countries, including former Soviet states which stand as key competitors against the EU.


Still, the figure will also surpass volumes recorded in any of the last five seasons. The EU usually exports some 1 million - 1.5 million tonnes of durum wheat, the type which is used in making pasta, on top of the soft wheat volumes.


The upgrade came despite a minor reduction, by 200,000 tonnes to 137.7 million tonnes, in the estimate for the EU soft wheat harvest this year, with winter wheat seedlings in much of the bloc affected by heavy rains which have caused flooding from Serbia to the UK.


Even so, at 137.5 million tonnes, the EU harvest is expected be strong, reaching 145.1 million tonnes including durum, the third largest on record.


In 2013, the soft wheat harvest reached 134.6 million tonnes, with a further 7.7 million tonnes of durum, Strategie Grains estimates.


However, hopes for 2014 have been supported by increased autumn sowings, after heavy rains disrupted plantings a year before, lifting total area to an estimated 800,000 hectares to 24.0 million hectares.


The export upgrade represents the second reassurance in two days for merchants, after FranceAgriMer defied expectations and stuck by a forecast that France, the EU's largest player in wheat, will ship 11.5 million tonnes of soft wheat this season despite concerns over trade with Egypt, the top importing country.


Egypt's Gasc grain authority has tightened, to 13.0%, restrictions on the level of moisture it will accept in wheat exports, a measure which may affect French shipments.


However, "Algerian and Moroccan demand could compensate for what we won't be able to do in Egypt," said Olivia Le Lamer, the head of the FranceAgriMer grains unit.


She added that Gasc's 13% moisture ceiling on wheat imports "doesn't close off the Egyptian market to French wheat", although it "makes things more costly and complicated".


Meanwhile, customs data this week showed that the UK market remains a ready wheat import market within the EU.


UK imports for December have surprised observers with rising on-month. The development boosts the notion that 2013's harvest may have been smaller than previously thought, while corn buy-ins reach their highest in at least 22 years.

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