EU wheat firm on export demand, French strike congestion

12/19/2019 | 01:50pm

Euronext wheat edged higher on Thursday, supported by steady export demand and logistical snags caused by strikes in France.

The prospect of a drop in wheat sowings for next year's European Union harvest, underscored by an official estimate pointing to a sharp decline in winter wheat area in Germany, also underpinned the market.

March milling wheat, the most active contract on the Paris-based Euronext exchange, settled up 0.75 euro or 0.4% at 186.00 euros (158.92 pounds) a tonne.

It earlier approached Monday's two-week high of 187.00 euros, to remain higher over the week.

"EU (Paris) futures are up 3 euros a tonne on the week, supported by ongoing export demand, logistical issues, in part caused by ongoing industrial strike action, and reduced producer selling," British merchant ADM Agriculture said in a note.

"All-in-all, the market doesn't look like falling in the short term, especially with growers shutting-up shop as the festive period approaches."

Stoppages this week by tug-boat personnel at French ports were preventing large grain vessels entering and leaving terminals, while a two-week-old rail strike was causing difficulties in getting grain to ports, traders said. <GRAIN/SHP/FR>

In monthly supply and demand data, the European Commission raised its forecast of 2019/20 EU common wheat exports to 28 million tonnes from 26 million previously.

EU countries including Germany were expected to be used to source part of purchases of up to 1 million tonnes of wheat by Iran in recent weeks, trade sources said.

In Germany, standard bread wheat with 12% protein for January delivery in Hamburg was offered for sale unchanged at 4 euros over the Paris March contract. Buyers were offering up to 3.5 euros over Paris.

"A series of ships are loading wheat for export in German ports in the last days of December as the export programme continues into the Christmas break," one German trader said.

Germany's winter wheat sown area for the 2020 harvest was down 7.1% on the year to 2.83 million hectares, the national statistics office said on Thursday.

"The reduction in wheat was a surprise as such a large swing towards rapeseed had not been expected," one trader said.

"If confirmed, this would certainly be a reduction in sown area which would mean a noticeable reduction in 2020 harvest tonnage, depending on the weather next year."

The German sowing projection came after recent estimates pointing to a sharp drop in wheat area in Britain and France after rain-hampered sowing campaigns.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Sybille de La Hamaide and Forrest Crellin in Paris and Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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