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Spain's wheat imports to soar 40%, as 'worst crop omens confirmed'

Soft wheat imports by Spain, the European Union's top buyer, will soar further than had been expected, by 43%, AgroInfomarket said, cutting again its forecast for the country's own harvest, thanks to dry weather.

The analysis group termed "inevitable" a greater reliance by Spain on imports of a range of grains in 2017-18 to ensure feed supplies required by the country's extensive livestock sector.

However, imports of soft wheat look like showing particular growth in the new season, which started on Saturday, with buy-ins pegged at 5.60m tonnes, an upgrade of 450,000 tonnes from the previous forecast, and a rise of 1.80m tonnes year on year.

'Worst omens are confirmed'

The import upgrade reflected a further downgrade of 800,000 tonnes to 4.15m tonnes a 38% drop year on year - to the estimate for the country's own soft wheat production, after dry weather continued into last month.

The forecast is well below an estimate of 5.1m tonnes last week from the International Grains Council.

"With a good part of the winter cereal already collected... the worst omens are confirmed," AgroInfomarket said.

Areas in the centre of the country were among "the most affected, due to the scarcity of rain and the high temperatures that left us most of the month of June".

Indeed, the harvest downgrade centred on Castilla y Leon, where wheat output, at 1.55m tonnes, was estimated down 34% year on year.

Wheat vs corn

AgroInfomarket also raised by 100,000 tonnes to 725,000 the forecast for Spanish barley imports in 2017-18, while the estimate for corn buy-ins was lifted by 200,000 tonnes to 6.88m tonnes.

Corn imports at that level would be up 22% year on year, and allow the grain to supplant wheat as the biggest contributor to Spain's feed market.

"Everything suggests that corn will recover in 2017-18 the leading role lost in the last two years in the manufacture of feed," the group said, flagging factors from grain price differentials to the question marks dry weather has placed over wheat crops in exporting countries such as France and the US too. 

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