France seen importing more wheat from eastern EU after poor crop

PARIS, Aug 17 (Reuters) – A vessel is due to call at the northern French port of Dunkirk next week to unload wheat from Bulgaria, shipping data showed on Wednesday, in a sign of unusual movements of wheat into France following a poor harvest.

The bulk carrier AS Elenia is transporting 33,500 tonnes of wheat that was loaded at the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna, the data showed.

France, the European Union’s biggest wheat grower and exporter, usually imports only small volumes and rarely takes any wheat from Bulgaria. Its previous wheat imports from the eastern EU country date back to the 2010-11 season when it took in just 11.5 tonnes, French customs records show.

France is also set to import a large cargo of wheat from Romania in the second half of August, traders said last month, reflecting a poor French harvest due to bad weather that has cut supply and widened the gap between French and eastern European prices.

“We’re going to see these kinds of unusual import flows throughout the season,” one trader said.

Several traders said the wheat from Bulgaria was not for consumption in France but would be re-exported to the United States to fulfil a previous deal to ship animal-feed wheat to the U.S. from a French port.

This summer’s French harvest, which is showing the worst yields in three decades, has left port terminals with less grain than expected and priced French wheat out of many export markets.

Shipping data indicates that a vessel is due to call at Dunkirk and Rouen, another northern French port, later this month to load feed wheat for Wilmington in the United States, the second such shipment since July.

The imported cargo from Romania, meanwhile, has yet to be confirmed in shipping listings, but traders said it was still expected to arrive in France by the end of the month.

This may be another unconventional import, according to traders who have suggested it could be used to deliver against Euronext futures and profit from a price premium versus Romanian wheat.

Dunkirk is also scheduled to receive a small wheat import cargo of 4,000 tonnes from Britain, with a vessel due to call this week, shipping sources added.

France regularly takes in small amounts of British wheat but traders said the prospect of imports so early in the season has fuelled market speculation.

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