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Strategie Grains extends run of downgrades to EU wheat export hopes, 15.03.18

Strategie Grains extended the run of downgrades to estimates for European Union wheat exports this season, but enhanced hopes for a recovery in 2018-19, despite trimming its production forecast.

The influential analysis group cut by 250,000 tonnes to 21.2m tonnes its forecast for soft wheat exports in 2017-18, which ends in June.

That represented a fifth successive downgrade by Strategie Grains in monthly reports, besides following a series of cuts to estimates by other commentators too.

Last week, the US Department of Agriculture cut its forecast for EU all-wheat exports, including the durum used to make pasta, by 1.0m tonnes to 25.0m tonnes, while the European Commission two weeks ago cut its forecast for EU soft wheat exports by 1.5m tonnes to 24.0m tonnes.

The International Grains Council last month cut its forecast for all-wheat shipments by 1.2m tonnes to 25.2m tonnes, a downgrade attributed all to soft wheat shipments, pegged at 22.9m tonnes.

The commission pegs EU soft wheat exports last season at 25.16m tonnes, with a further 1.40m tonnes of durum on top.

France vs Russia

Worries have centred particularly on worsened prospects for exports from France - the EU’s top wheat grower and shipper – in the face of tough competition from Russia, which has attracted a series of upgrades to its trade hopes.

Russia, after reaping a record harvest last year, has seen its exports enhanced by a mild winter too, which has limited seasonal setbacks to logistics.

On Wednesday, analysis group Ikar raised its forecast for Russia’s all-wheat exports this season by 1.0m tonnes to 38.5m tonnes.

By contrast, FranceAgriMer, citing a disappointing pace of shipments, cut its forecast for French wheat exports outside the EU by 500,000 tonnes to 8.5m tonnes.

The downgrade took the forecast, unusually, below the 8.53m tonnes that France expects to export to other EU countries – only the second time this would occur in 10 seasons.

‘Poland may struggle’

However, Strategie Grains cited setbacks from other EU countries as behind its downgrade, saying that “the export reduction concerns the Baltic countries and Poland, whose exports onto the world market are extraordinarily low compared with previous years.

“Poland may struggle to export over 1m tonnes to third countries in 2017-18,” the group said.

Poland’s soft wheat exports so far this season total 623,000 tonnes, according to commission data.

Harvest forecast

Still, the Paris-based analysis group raised by 500,000 tonnes to 24.6m tonnes its forecast for EU soft wheat exports in 2018-19.

It cited the reduced competitiveness of US supplies, prices of which have been lifted by fears of yield loss to drought in the southern Plains, and some modestly improved prospects for this year’s Croatian and Romanian harvests, which were upgraded by a combined 400,000 tonnes.

Romania has become an increasingly important origin for EU soft wheat exports, with shipments this season totalling 2.66m tonnes so far, second only to France’s 4.65m tonnes among the bloc’s 28 countries, on commission data.

However, Strategie Grains downgraded its forecast for the EU soft wheat harvest overall in 2018-19 by 600,000 tonnes to 141.1m tonnes, citing reduced area figures for some countries, and expectations of damage in some northern countries, such as Denmark, Poland and Sweden, from the recent cold snap.

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