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France’s Dunkirk port to start China wheat loading this month -terminal

Nord Cereales, which runs the grain terminal at France’s northern port of Dunkirk, will start loading wheat for China in December as planned, unaffected by reported postponements of cargoes by Chinese buyers, its chief executive said.

China has in recent years become a key export destination for France, the European Union’s biggest grain producer, and rumours that several cargoes of French wheat due to load this month for China have been delayed to March helped push European prices to two-year lows earlier this week.

“The vessels that were due to load in December with us are confirmed,” Nord Cereales’ Joel Ratel told Reuters, adding his firm would load about 250,000 metric tons of wheat for China this month.

Chinese buyers are estimated to have booked some 2 million to 2.5 million tons of French milling wheat for shipment between December and March. Vessels are also expected to load at Rouen in Normandy and La Pallice on France’s Atlantic coast.

Nord Cereales expects to load at least 800,000 to 1 million tons of wheat for China over December-March, though exporters had not yet confirmed shipping arrangements for subsequent months, Ratel said ahead of his company’s annual meeting on Friday.

The China sales have boosted French wheat exports after stiff Russian competition in markets like Algeria.

Nord Cereales expects to load about 850,000 tons of grain, mostly barley for China, between July and December, well down from 1.5 million in the year-earlier period when France benefited from the Russia-Ukraine war’s disruption to Black Sea trade, Ratel said.

Upcoming shipments to China should allow the terminal operator to reach 2 million tons of grain loadings by the end of the 2023/24 season on June 30, compared with 2.2 million in 2022/23, he said.

While Dunkirk’s reliance on China could represent a risk, the French grain market has shown its ability to compete on price and pick up sales elsewhere, including in Pakistan last season, Ratel said.

Traders this week reported several cargoes of French wheat were sold to Morocco following the price lows.

Backed by a new silo due to open next year, Nord Cereales also plans to start offering in 2024/25 cereal exports in containers to tap demand from importers who prefer not to book larger bulk cargoes, Ratel said.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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