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Benelux grains: crop woes bolster wheat, maize prices
LONDON , Concerns about the size of this season's grain harvests in France and Germany are bolstering new crop Benelux feed grain prices, but consumers, wary of paying too much, have yet to bite.
"Bid levels and activity has increased in recent days as users are alerted of the potentially damaging feed supply situation in Europe," a Dutch trader said.
"But most of the volumes changing hands are moving between traders - consumers are actually buying very, very little," he added.
Coverage rates remain low, particularly in Belgium, where users are defiant in their reluctance to pay up to 120 euros per tonne currently asked for harvest feed wheat shipments, said one Dutch broker.
Crop worries have intensified in recent weeks, particularly in France, where two yield-damaging bouts of heavy frost, a prolonged drought, and then scorching temperatures forced French cereals office ONIC to last week trim its forecast for 2003/04 soft wheat output by 15 percent to 31.71 million tonnes.
In Germany, the extended run of unseasonably high temperatures is still stoking fears of grain production cuts this season, particularly for winter barley - a crop popular with animal feed makers.
Analysts are predicting a 15 to 20 percent drop in German barley output this year, from 8.26 million tonnes in 2002/03, while wheat output is still seen steady at around 21 million tonnes.
Dry weather in the main maize-growing areas of France and expectations of a pick-up in demand from poultry producers now that the bird flu epidemic in the Netherlands has been declared officially over by the European Commission, helped to lift prices by up 3 euros over the last week, traders said.
Maize is a major component in poultry rations.
Some 255 farms in the Netherlands, the world's fourth largest poultry exporter, were hit by the avian flu and around 26 million birds were slaughtered to contain the outbreak that was discovered in late February.
ONIC recently pegged EU maize production this year at 41 million tonnes, a rise of 2 percent over 2002/04 because the crops suffered less from dry conditions in most member states.
But it cautioned that yields were provisional and could change, depending on how the weather progresses this month.
MGR Archive 16.7.2003
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
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