Brisk Chinese demand for French wheat and barley is continuing this season as a grain import drive by China and its trade clash with Australia provide a welcome export boost for France after a disappointing harvest, traders and analysts said.
For wheat, around a dozen panamax vessels are thought to have been booked for shipment to China during the first half of the 2020-21 season that started in July, representing about 700,000 tonnes, traders said, with some estimating sales at least 1m.
So far, about 200,000 tonnes of French wheat have been shipped or are about to load, port data shows.
"Chinese demand remains dynamic at the start of the new season," Nathan Cordier of consultancy Agritel said.
"Thankfully China is there because we’re not exporting much wheat elsewhere."
While reduced French supply and less competitive prices are seen costing it substantial sales in Algeria, its main overseas market, Chinese importers have been undeterred so far.
Traders see China’s appetite for French wheat as linked to a push to fill more of its wheat import quota following a World Trade Organisation ruling, as well as a desire to diversify sourcing following trade disputes with grain suppliers such as the United States.
However, a cap on Chinese quota allowances and uncompetitive French supplies may keep wheat exports below a 2019-20 volume of around 1.6m tonnes, traders said.
For French barley, nearly 700,000 tonnes have already been shipped or are about to load for China.
Including cargoes for later shipment, traders peg sales of French barley at least 1m tonnes in the first half the season, on the way to matching last season’s 1.5m.
China’s announcement in May of a prohibitive import tariff on Australian barley has triggered French sales of both livestock feed barley and malting barley for beer.
However, new sales have slowed, with a rally in the euro making French barley uncompetitive against Ukrainian or Canadian supplies, traders said.