French wheat exports tumble, following rain-ravaged harvest

10.10.2016

France's exports of its rain-ravaged wheat crops slowed further - although in decline led by buyers from within the European Union, rather than the importers outside the bloc which have been expected to find alternative origins.

Wheat exports by France, the European Union's top shipper, slowed to 913,251 tonnes in August from the 1.09m tonnes exported in July, the first month of 2016-17.

The decline left exports for the first two months of the season at 2.00m tonnes, a drop of 20% year on year, a reflection of a harvest weak on quantity as well as quality thanks to persistent rains.

According to the official FranceAgriMer bureau, only 25% of the crop has a specific weight, a key quality metric, above the 76kg per hectolitre threshold demanded by many users, compared with 80% last year.

EU vs non-EU

However, it is exports from within the EU, which FranceAgriMer has forecast holding up relatively well, which are leading the decline, dropping 25% to 806,186 tonnes over the two months.

Shipments outside the EU were down 17% at 542,317 tonnes, with shipments to Ivory Coast and the US offsetting in part the decline in volumes to some key high quality wheat buyers - such as Algeria, whose imports have near-halved to 495,801 tonnes.

FranceAgriMer has forecast France's exports within the EU falling by 15.6% over 2016-17 as a whole, with shipments outside the bloc seen tumbling by 63%.

France's overall wheat export volumes for the season are expected to drop by 43% to 11.90m tonnes.

'Plenty of feed quality grain'

The weak level of exports within the EU so far is not surprising, given the low quality of France's crop and extent of feed grains around, a UK-based trader told Agrimoney.com.

"There is plenty of feed quality grain around at the moment, whether from this harvest or left over from the last," the trader said.

"But what may give a boost to French exports to the rest of the EU is the disappointing maize harvest, which could give buyers something to think about."

EU officials on Monday cut their forecast for the bloc's ongoing maize harvest by 2.8m tonnes to 59.7m tonnes, after recent dryness in Romania and, ironically, France too.

Soaring imports

In fact, France's own wheat imports surged in August, to 114,971 tonnes from 20,592 tonnes in July.

Indeed, overall imports for the two months, at 136,563 tonnes, are up 71% year on year, gleaned nearly all from other European Union countries, and likely of higher quality wheat to blend with lower specification domestic supplies.

Romania is the main origin, providing more than 70,000 tonnes, but with 28,971 tonnes purchased too from the UK, which had a strong quality harvest this year.

This makes France unusually, although not unprecedentedly, a net importer from the UK, to which it shipped 17,294 tonnes of wheat in the July-to-August period.


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