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French wheat export outlook cut as focus turns to crop weather

Farm office FranceAgriMer lowered its forecast of French soft wheat exports this season, citing ebbing international demand, while warning rain was urgently needed to avoid damage to cereal crops ahead of this summer’s harvest.

In its May supply and demand outlook for cereal crops, the office cut its projection of soft wheat exports outside the European Union in the 2021/22 season that ends in June to 9.25 million tonnes from 9.5 million estimated in April.

It also trimmed its forecast of 2021/22 French soft wheat exports within the 27-member EU, to 8.0 million tonnes from 8.1 million.

The office last month had already lowered its projection of soft wheat exports to non-EU destinations, citing reduced competitiveness for French supplies after an initial wave of demand to replace Black Sea shipments set off by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Market operators have reported reduced demand in recent weeks,” Marc Zribi, head of FranceAgriMer’s grain unit, said about wheat exports.

A surge in prices, fueled by the invasion, is likely to have slowed activity by importers, while coronavirus lockdowns in China are thought to have curbed demand in what has been the top destination for French wheat this season, he told reporters.

The reduced export outlook led FranceAgriMer to increase its projection of French soft wheat stocks by the end of the season to 3.2 million tonnes, up from 3.0 million estimated last month and now a five-year high.

FranceAgriMer said dry conditions since winter were threatening to damage wheat and other cereal crops, adding negative impact so far was limited to the southeast and certain shallow soils.

“If it rains in the next 10 to 15 days that can alleviate the situation for the bulk of crops,” Benoit Pietrement, a farmer and head of FranceAgriMer’s crop committee, said.

“We are very concerned but we’re not yet in an emergency.”

France’s farm ministry and crop institute Arvalis have in the past week warned a current warm, dry spell will cause some damage to cereal yields.

The office also raised its forecast for maize stocks at the end of 2021/22, to 2.2 million tonnes from 2.0 million in April.

That reflected a 100,000 tonne increase to projected harvest supply and a similar-sized cut to expected maize use in animal feed as a bird flu crisis continued to weigh on the poultry sector.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Jason Neely and Tomasz Janowski)

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