FranceAgriMer raised its estimate for France's wheat exports
in 2012-13, to well above levels last season, despite data showing that
shipments had started off on a weak footing, dropping 21% so far.
FranceAgriMer, the French farm bureau, lifted by 430,000
tonnes its forecast for soft wheat grain shipments from the European Union's
top producer of the grain in the newly-started season.
The upgrade took the estimate to 17.5m tonnes, a rise of
9.0% year on year, even though customs data released separately on Wednesday
showed exports lagging so far in 2012-13.
In July and August, the first two months of the marketing
year, exports dropped 21% to 2.22m tonnes.
Shipments outside the EU fell particularly fast, by 27%,
thanks in part to the failure to send any grain to Egypt, the top importer,
which took 126,000 tonnes in the first two months of 2011-12.
The drop in exports inside the bloc was underpinned somewhat
by higher shipments to the UK, whose own disappointing crop, confirmed
separately by the National Farmers Union, has seen consumers turn increasingly to
'Russia priced out'
FranceAgriMer further trimmed its figure for the French soft
wheat harvest by 100,000 tonnes, bringing its estimate in line with that of the
country's farm ministry, which was downgraded earlier this week.
Nonetheless, at just under 36.0m tonnes, the number
represented a rebound of some 2.0m tonnes from last year's dryness-hit crop.
And prospects for France to raise its shipments have
improved with the retreat from new export business by Russia, which is renowned
as a tough competitor in international markets, but whose wheat production this
year was depressed by drought.
With internal Russian wheat prices this month hitting a
record high, its supplies "have clearly now priced themselves out of much
further export business", grain traders at a major European commodities house
Indeed, the first sale of grain from intervention stocks may
herald "some form of export control", especially as President Vladimir Putin
cited grain prices as a major factor behind rising inflation in Russia".
In fact, France has sold nearly 500,000 tonnes of wheat,
with a total value of more than $160m, to Egypt's state grain authority, Gasc,
alone since the end of August as Russia has stepped back.
It is also believed to have scooped the lion's share of a
700,000-tonne order, worth some $250m, from Algeria two weeks ago.
Indeed, the FranceAgriMer estimates assume strong exports
helping depress France's soft wheat inventories as of the end of 2012-13 to 1.78m
tonnes, down 22% year on year, and the lowest since at least the 1990s.