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French wheat exports surge to compensate for lack of Black Sea supply

Traders have increased their forecasts for French wheat shipments to non-EU countries this season as the war in Ukraine continues to influence grain flows out of Black Sea ports.

France has exported twice as much wheat this year than it did in 2021. It is forecast to export 10 million mt of wheat this season, reaching 7.5 million mt by the end of December. Exports will exceed last year’s season, which totaled 3.7 million mt by the end of December 2021, with total exports for last season at 7.5 million mt, sources said.

“France has never had to export so much of their available wheat,” a trader said, adding that there is usually enough output from the Black Sea.

France is the top exporter of EU wheat in the marketing year 2022-23 at 7 million mt, according to the EU Crop Observatory. EU wheat exports reached 16 million mt as of Dec. 12, up 5.7% year on year, with the largest importers of EU wheat Morocco (2.1 million mt), Algeria (2 million mt), and Egypt (1.6 million mt), according to the EU Crop Observatory.

“French farmers have been compensating for the lack of exports out of Russia and Ukraine, which is insufficient for what they normally export and because the market is offloading out of the EU very quickly,” the trader said.

Ukraine’s wheat exports will likely remain low this year as the war, which began in February when Russia invaded Ukraine, disrupted port logistics and affected trade flows, traders said. Ukraine’s wheat exports fell 52.1% in the marketing year 2022-23 to 7.3 million mt, agriculture ministry data showed Dec. 14. Likewise, in Russia, some traders said they expected the country to export up to 5 million mt of wheat in December, but they have since lowered that estimate and it is more likely to be around 4 million mt, according to Igor Pavensky, head of analysis at consultancy Rusagrotrans.

“The corridor is a real bottleneck with extreme cost and uncertainties and without clarity,” another source said. “We’re trading logistics nowadays while realizing we’re moving problems and headaches around.”

As for the weather, the Black Sea winter season is anticipated to create more disruption. In early December, most areas of Ukraine experienced cool weather with rain and snow, which contributed to the development of diseases and pests on winter crops in certain parts of the country, the country’s agriculture ministry said. Additionally, due to the poor weather, inspection of some vessels at the grain corridor could not be concluded, the Joint Coordination Center said Dec. 15.

“January and February are the worst months in terms of weather and logistics out of the Black Sea, so we are expecting again France to also start competing for this,” a separate source said.

Source: Platts

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