French Soft-Wheat Exports Seen Rising 5.7% on Demand Outside EU

France’s soft-wheat exports, the European Union’s largest, may rise 5.7 percent as demand from clients including Algeria and Egypt is expected to make up for slower sales in Europe, according to crop office FranceAgriMer.

Shipments of the grain may climb to 18.2 million metric tons in the 2013-14 season from 17.2 million tons the previous crop year, according to a balance sheet published yesterday by the Montreuil-sous-Bois, France-based office.

The EU has issued export licenses for 4.47 million tons of soft wheat since July 1, the fastest pace in at least 10 years, boosted by a jump in exports from Romania. France may start winning business from Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat buyer, as Romania begins to deplete its supplies, according to Olivia Le Lamer, head of FranceAgriMer’s arable crops unit.

“We take the view that on our traditional destinations we won’t face a threat, and we’re confident on Egypt,” Le Lamer said yesterday. “Romania doesn’t have an inexhaustible exportable surplus, at some point France will take its place.”

Egypt bought 1.97 million tons of wheat between the start of July and Sept. 6, with Romania accounting for 840,000 tons, Ukraine for 590,000 tons and Russia for 540,000 tons, according to FranceAgriMer. Egypt’s state grain buyer said Sept. 10 it bought another 60,000 tons of Romanian wheat, a similar amount from Russia and 115,000 tons of the grain from Ukraine.

FranceAgriMer forecasts French soft-wheat sales outside the EU will climb 11 percent to 11 million tons from 9.91 million tons shipped outside the 28-nation bloc in 2012-13. Exports within the EU are seen slipping 1.5 percent to 7.07 million tons.

Egypt Sales

France’s soft-wheat exports to Egypt might be as much as 1 million tons, according to Le Lamer. That compared with 750,756 tons shipped to the country last season, trade data show.

“The forecast for 11 million tons takes into account the possibilities on Egypt,” Le Lamer said. “We remain confident for the opportunities of French wheat in this market.”

Romania accounted for 910,912 tons of the soft-wheat export licenses issued by the EU this season as of Sept. 3, up from 221,840 tons from a year earlier. That compares with 1.25 million tons for France, from 1.13 million tons at the same time last year, data published by the bloc show.

The Black Sea country’s wheat is about 65 percent milling quality, more than usual, according to Le Lamer. Romania’s soft wheat production is estimated at 7 million tons, while domestic consumption is 3 million tons, according to FranceAgriMer.

“The exporters are pushing wheat now because coming up behind them is a corn harvest that will also be abundant, and they don’t have the storage capacity,” Le Lamer said.

In addition to France’s sales to regular clients such as Algeria, the country this season loaded 60,000 tons of soft wheat destined for China and 120,000 tons for Saudi Arabia, Le Lamer said.

“The two surprise players are China and Saudi Arabia, which come on top of existing markets,” Le Lamer said. “We don’t know where it will stop.”

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