Egypt exploits lower cargo costs to cut wheat bill

Egypt bought wheat at the cheapest in five months despite the February recovery in world futures markets, exploiting lower shipping rates as well as a pullback in Russian values encouraged by a weaker rouble.

Egypt's Gasc grain authority, at its first tender in February, bought 295,000 tonnes of wheat at an average of about $292 a tonne including freight, the lowest since September.

The price reflected in part a fall in shipping charges which have, as measured by the Baltic Dry index, tumbled by some 45% this year, undermined by jitters over emerging markets and their impact on commodity demand.

The cheapest offer from freight from France was $17.88 a tonne this time, compared with $23.75 a tonne at the last Gasc tender of 2013, on December 17. Freight from Romania offered as low as $10 a tonne this time, down from $15.73 a tonne.

Russian retreat

The lower price also reflected bargain supplies Russia, whose offers were cheaper than at Gasc's last tender, on January 28, compared with rises in prices of French and US offers.

Gasc wheat purchases, Feb 27

Romania: 60,000 tonnes from Ameropa at $292.54 a tonne including freight of $10 a tonne

Russia: 60,000 tonnes from Cargill at $291.94 a tonne including freight of $11.39 a tonne

Russia: 60,000 tonnes from Olam at $293.15 a tonne including freight of $12.60 a tonne

Russia: 60,000 tonnes from Cargill at $293.15 a tonne including freight of $12.60 a tonne

Russia: 55,000 tonnes from Glencore at $289.25 a tonne including freight of $13.25 a tonne

While global futures markets have risen this month, reflecting concerns over damage to US wheat from cold and improved expectations for exports, Russian prices have, in dollar terms, been depressed in part by depreciation in the rouble, which has fallen by some 2.6% against the dollar this month.

Russian prices have also been depressed by competition with neighbouring Kazakhstan, which devalued its own currency by 19% on February 11.

Long tail

Romanian wheat, which was not offered at the previous tender, also picked up 60,000 tonnes of the Gasc wheat order, at $292.54 a tonne including freight.

Romania remains the most popular origin for Gasc wheat purchases this season, but only by some three cargos more than Russia, which has now won orders totalling 1.31m tonnes.

While Russian export supplies are typically loaded towards the front of the marketing year, in the summer and autumn, and are running thin by this time of the season, the extent of late orders reflects improved ideas for last year's harvest, and may be down to political change too.

"Now that Russia has shown it is not going to impose export bans willy nilly, I think traders are more comfortable biding their time, rather than front-end loading shipments for fear of getting caught out," a UK trader told

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