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Gasc wheat purchase unearths Romania quality fears

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Egypt, the top wheat importing country, marked the first day of the grain's new season with a 240,000-tonne order – but at prices which failed to reflect the latest slip in futures, spurring ideas of a quality premium.

Egypt's Gasc grain authority said that, at tender, it had bought three cargoes of Romanian wheat, and one of Russian supplies, for August shipment.

The order, Gasc's biggest since February, was priced at an average of $252.38 a tonne excluding freight, some $0.20 a tonne above the price it paid at it last tender, two weeks ago - despite a further drop in futures since then.

Chicago futures have fallen some 4% over the intervening period, with Paris wheat futures down 2%.

The resilience of physical prices may be down to concerns over the impact of late rains on the crop in Romania - Gasc's favourite wheat origin last season - encouraging merchants to maintain headroom for paying up to secure quality supplies, Jaime Nolan Miralles at INTL FCStone said.

'Expecting significant downgrades'

"There is a big question mark over quality in that region," Mr Nolan told, highlighting that late rains were also affecting the wheat crop in Bulgaria. Array

Romania: 60,000 tonnes from Louis Dreyfus, $251.87 a tonne, plus $10.10 freight

Romania: 60,000 tonnes from Toepfer, $252.75 a tonne, plus $10.10 a tonne freight

Romania: 60,000 tonnes from Cargill, $252.50 a tonne, plus $10.85 a tonne freight

Russia: 60,000 tonnes from Nidera, $252.39 a tonne, plus $10.70 a tonne freight

"It is not just half an hour. The rains are going on for three or four hours. Farmers are desperate to get into the fields to ensure the quantity of their harvest, even if they won't get the quality.

"I am expecting significant downgrades for wheat in Bulgaria."

'A bit of a premium added'

For Romania, the situation is not as bad, but there remains significant doubt over the country's harvest, as revealed two weeks ago.

Mr Nolan said: "It looks there has been a bit of a premium added" in the Gasc tender to secure quality supplies.

Other observers have also cautioned over rains in southern Europe, where harvest has started in some areas.

"In Europe, recent precipitation is highly appreciated with respect to corn, but certain fears manifest themselves when focusing on other cereals since harvest period is [imminent]," Agritel said. has heard mixed reports from the early barley harvest in southern France, viewed as something of a barometer for the broader harvest.

In central Ukraine too, "widespread" rains have "increased wetness concerns and stalled winter wheat harvesting", weather service MDA said, although it forecast drier weather ahead.

Quality theme

In the US too, late rains have, besides slowing the harvest, raised concerns over the quality of winter wheat, with quantity already seen hit by drought during the growing season in the southern, hard red winter wheat belt.

However, talk of quality concerns has spread most to the soft red winter wheat crop, grown in the Midwest, where persistent rains has provoked fears of vomitoxin, a fungal residue which can render crop unfit even for feed use.

Rainfall, while helpful for growing wheat, is a setback to ripe wheat by encouraging sprouting and cutting protein levels, reducing its milling qualities.

US soft red winter wheat was offered to Gasc at $259 a tonne, down $5 a tonne, or 2%, on the cheapest tender at the previous auction, undercutting French supplies.

The 2014-15 marketing year for wheat starts today for most major northern hemisphere producing countries, with the US, where it began a month ago, a notable exception.


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