France cuts wheat export hopes, after slowdown in shipments to non-EU buyers


France’s soft wheat exports will not rise as far as had been thought this season,curtailde by strong competition and a smaller-than-thought recovery in production, with shipments outside the European Union bearing the brunt of the downgrade.

FranceAgrimer, the official French crop bureau, lowered by 425,000 tonnes to 17.69m tonnes its forecast for the country’s shipments of soft wheat in 2017-18.

The downgrade reflected a weaker figure for this year’s harvest, reduced by 500,000 tonnes to 37.01m tonnes, on a weaker area figure.

The yield estimate was kept at 7.35 tonnes per hectare, up 37% on last year’s result, which was depressed by late rains.

’Strong international competition’

The downgrade to export hopes was applied in the main to expectations for shipments outside the EU, which were seen coming in at 9.50m tonnes, down 400,000 tonnes from the previous forecast.

While the country’ performance in exports to far flung destinations has received a psychological boost this month with news of the loading of a 55,0000-tonne cargo of harder wheat to Saudi Arabia - a reflection of the strong quality of this year’s French harvest - the deal is not expected to set a broader trend.

Indeed, Olivia Le Lamer, head of FranceAgriMer’s grain unit, said that "this opportunity did not lead us to raise our export forecast.

"On the contrary, we take account of a modest loading pace and strong international competition," which had fostered disappointment in French exports to some other destinations, such as Mexico.

Ms Le Lamer underlined that the price of US hard wheat has "fallen significantly and is gaining competitiveness on the global market", while Argentina "remains a major competitor" in the Algerian market, historically a big buyer of French supplies.

"There is no wide-open door for French wheat in this very competitive context."

Recovery slows

Indeed, while France’s pace of exports outside the EU remains above levels of a year ago, when the weak harvest sent shipments tumbling, the pace of recovery has slowed as teh season has gone on.

In fact, October exports outside the EU, at 289,737 tonnes, fell some 3,000 tonnes short of those a year before, latest customs data show.

In the first four months of 2017-18, which started in July, French wheat shipments outside the EU totalled 2.03m tonnes, up 11% year on year, but a pace well below the 91% growth that FranceAgriMer is pencilling in for the whole of the season.

Spanish, UK needs

By contrast, exports of French soft wheat within the EU are, at 2.65m tonnes, up 67% year on year, helped by strong sales to Spain, whose own harvest was undermined by drought, and is a strong buyer of feed grains for its livestock herd.

French exports to the UK are also strongly higher, by 148% to 92,682 tonnes so far this season, after late rains depressed the quality of the UK harvest.

FranceAgriMer trimmed its estimate for 2017-18 French soft wheat exports within the bloc by 123,000 tonnes to 8.08m tonnes, representing a 29% recovery year on year.

The revisions also allowed for a small cut, of 81,000 tonnes to 3.24m tonnes, in the forecast for French soft wheat inventories at the close of this season.


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