French Wheat-Export Window to Be Start of 2014, Crop Office Says

French wheat may be best placed to win import tenders from Egypt, the world’s biggest buyer, at the start of next year on lack of competition from Australia and Canada, crop office FranceAgriMer said.

France will ship more wheat outside Europe than predicted a month ago on an improved outlook for deliveries to Egypt, Olivia Le Lamer, head of commodity crops at FranceAgriMer, said today at a meeting in Montreuil-sous-Bois, near Paris. The best chances of selling to Egypt will be in January and February as suppliers in the world wheat market will be limited, she said.

Egypt will import 9.7 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 season, from 8.2 million tons in the previous period, the International Grains Council forecasts. The country’s state-run buyer agreed to purchase 120,000 tons of French wheat and 180,000 tons from Romania in a tender today.

“We’re strongly counting on Egypt,” Le Lamer said. “Egypt is taking off. We’re only at the start. The Black Sea offer is drying up, particularly the Romanian supplies.”

FranceAgriMer lifted its outlook for 2013-14 soft-wheat exports outside the European Union by 600,000 tons to 11.8 million tons, up from 17.2 million tons in the prior season. Total shipments of the grain are forecast to climb to 18.95 million tons from 17.2 million tons.

The U.S. and Canada will be “tangled up in logistics” in the first two months of next year, offering France a favored position, according to Le Lamer.

More Competition

“January and February will be the two crucial months,” she said. “We’re not saying we won’t do anything after February, but the competition will be tougher.”

The export outlook was raised after FranceAgriMer met with grain-industry representatives today. The crop-office forecast is “more prudent” than that of operators, who expect soft-wheat exports of 12 million tons or more outside the EU, according to Le Lamer.

The first two months of 2014 “will be a window to get a shot in,” Remi Haquin, chairman of the grains council at FranceAgriMer, said at the meeting in Montreuil. “The Australians won’t be there yet, nor the Canadians.”

Wheat in Australia is harvested from November to January, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop calendar. Canada faces export hurdles during its winter due to weather, with the Great Lakes freezing over, according to Le Lamer.

Canada’s wheat harvest is estimated to rise 38 percent to a record 37.05 million tons, according to Statistics Canada. Australia expects its third-biggest crop of the grain on record, with farmers harvesting 26.2 million tons from 22.5 million tons a year earlier.

The effects of Canada’s record crop will be felt into next season, as the country will be unable to export all of the grain in 2013-14, according to Le Lamer.

“This gigantic Canadian harvest will also impact 2014-15,” she said. “They’re drowning in grain.”

French farmers’ planting of soft wheat for the 2014 harvest will drop 1.2 percent to 4.92 million hectares (12.2 million acres), while the area sown with durum wheat will fall 11 percent to 298,990 hectares, according to the crop office.

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