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French soft wheat exports outside EU to halve, after poor harvest


France’s soft wheat exports will fall even more than had been thought thanks to the disappointing harvest, FranceAgriMer said, cutting its estimate for durum shipments too to the lowest in at least 14 years.


The official farm bureau cut by 1.71m tonnes to 13.17m tonnes its forecast for 2020-21 soft wheat exports from France, the European Union’s top shipper of the grain.


Shipments at that level would represent a slump of 37% from the record 21.01m tonnes recorded for 2019-20, as ended in June.


And it would represent the second weakest figure in more than a decade, coming in ahead of the 11.35m-tonne number recorded in 2016-17, after a drought-affected harvest.


EU vs non-EU

The revision reflected the downgraded expectations for France’s 2020 soft wheat harvest, as underlined on Tuesday by the country’s farm ministry, after a season marred by extremes of wetness which hampered autumn sowings, and spring drought which limited crop development.


French exports outside the EU were seen taking a particular hit, with FranceAgriMer slashing its forecast by 1.15m tonnes to 6.60m tonnes – a drop of more than one-half from last season’s result, which was buoyed by strong Chinese demand after a bumper 2019 harvest, on top of substantial business to France’s key North African customers.


The forecast for exports to other EU countries, plus the UK, was reduced by a more modest 560,000 tonnes to 6.44m tonnes, a decline of 13.2% year on year.


Indeed, the UK itself is expected, after a dismal harvest, to require strong wheat imports in 2020-21, albeit largely of the higher quality grain more typical in the likes of Germany and the Baltics.


The average UK harvest yield as of last week - with 16% of the crop still to be reaped, thanks to rain delays – was pegged by consultancy Adas at 7.1-7.5 tonnes per hectare, below a five-year average of 8.4 tonnes per hectare, and on a reduced acreage.


Durum decline

For durum wheat too the type used to make the likes of pasta and semolina, FranceAgriMer trimmed its forecast for France’s exports in 2020-21 by 10,000 tonnes - a reduction which took the figure to 990,000 tonnes, below 1.0m tonnes for the first time on data going back to 2007-08.


For durum, the downgrade reflected a 50,000-tonne cut to 850,000 tonnes in the estimate for shipments elsewhere in the EU, offset in part by an upgrade to 140,000 tonnes to exports outside the bloc.


Non-EU shipments would nonetheless represent, by a distance, the lowest on the dataset, beneath the existing low of 209,000 tonnes set in 2016-17. Last season’s volumes totalled 1.45m tonnes, including 309,000 tonnes sent outside the bloc.


The revisions come amid ideas of tightened global durum stocks, as underlined by the International Grains Council in an Agrimoney webinar last week, with hopes for relief from Canada’s harvest.

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