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Russia and Hungary to vie for Romania wheat market
BUCHAREST ,Russia and Hungary will compete fiercely over Romania's 1.0 million tonne milling wheat deficit in 2003/04, traders and analysts said on Wednesday.
Romania, which plans to import wheat to meet domestic demand after a prolonged drought, will allow duty-free imports to prevent a rise in the price of bread - a staple for its impoverished 21.6 million people.
Romania, badly hit by dry weather for three years in a row, expects to harvest a meagre 2.6 million tonnes of wheat in 2003, one of its lowest crops in 13 years, against 4.4 million in 2002. Its needs are estimated at 3.6 million tonnes.
The farm ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and Kazakhstan could become Romania's top suppliers during the duty free period. But traders see neighbouring Hungary as a more suitable grain supplier.
"There's a continuous demand from local millers for Hungarian wheat," said a trader at the western border with Hungary. "It's full of trucks near the border."
Traders said buyers could be enticed by Hungary's low transport costs and carefully cultivated relations with Romanian wholesalers.
Analysts see potential for Romania to absorb an overall 1.5 million tonnes of wheat in 2003/04, but a lot would depend on how much Russian and Hungarian firms can offer.
Russia is to harvest 70 million tonnes of grain this year after 86.6 million in 2002, while Hungary predicts a 3.2 million-tonne crop and an export surplus of 400,000 tonnes.
Russia's exports outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) doubled to 4.12 million tonnes over January-May 2003 from the same 2002 period.
The whole Hungarian grain surplus of good quality milling wheat could be absorbed through Romania's western border during the marketing year 2003/04, traders said.
ATTOL Exim, a trading company in the western city of Oradea, said it had purchased 50,000 tonnes of Hungarian wheat since the start of the year.
"Prices rose by 10 euros to 120 euros ($136) at present," ATTOL Exim director Alexandru Laslau told Reuters.
Russian wheat, which arrives at the Black Sea port of Constanta, now sells for about $140 a tonne on a cost-insurance-freight basis.
Trading has been sporadic and transport costs to bring the wheat inland add to the price but long-term good relations with Romania's traders could work in Russia's favour.
One of Romania's biggest wheat importers, Dunarom, a unit of Greek firm Dimitriaki, said it had only bought 5,000 tonnes of Russian wheat so far but wanted to increase imports.
"We've been having talks with Russian exporters and think we'll increase the imports size," Roxana Chivu, a Dunarom director, told Reuters.
Custom duties on wheat are now at 15 percent for imports from countries in the central European free trade agreement (CEFTA), including Hungary, and 25 percent for the rest
MGR Archive 10.7.2003
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