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Hungary's drought-hit wheat crop seen down
BUDAPEST , Hungary's drought-hit harvest should be in by next week, but the crop is expected to be almost a quarter down on last year's 3.9 million tonnes.
"The last official estimate we had was 3.26 million tonnes at the end of June. Now we don't expect more than three million tonnes, maybe less," Laszlo Palvolgyi, grains intervention expert at the farm ministry, told Reuters on Friday.
With just a few days harvesting to go, the most optimistic forecasts are for around three million tonnes against last year's 3.9 million and 5.2 million in 2001.
Hungary's annual domestic need is 2.7 million tonnes, suggesting there will be little left over for export.
Traders said buyers from Romania and Ukraine were offering as much as 130 euros per tonne for Hungarian wheat at border parity, but there may be less than 300,000 tonnes to sell.
Hungary's Grains Association recently put the wheat rollover stock at 312,000 tonnes - based on a conservative crop estimate of 2.8 million tonnes and a minimum required reserve of 200,000 tonnes - leaving just 222,000 tonnes for export.
After 2001's good harvest, Hungary exported over two million tonnes of wheat.
Laszlo Horvath, grains trader at Hamilton International, said recent trade buys ex-farm had triggered sharp price rises on both the physical market and the commodities exchange.
These increases accelerated when it became clear that much of this year's crop would fail a recently introduced quality parameter - wet gluten spreading.
This is widely used in Hungary to gauge wheat's baking quality and, this year, the average is expected to exceed the 10mm per hour maximum set by the exchange.
As a result, traders moved to close short positions on the exchange, pushing prices up even further.
On Friday, August wheat futures rose 630 forints per tonne to 34,000 forints, September was up 500 at 34,700 and December rose 500 forints to 35,800.
On the physical market, farm-gate wheat rose to between 32,000 and 33,000 forints per tonne from 30,000 early last week.
Horvath said there was little sign yet of export activity.
"As far as I know, in the first half of July, wheat exports were 15,000-16,000 tonnes," he said.
Farmers and exporters are now hoping rain may come to the rescue for what is left of the maize crop.
The Grains Association estimates this could be as low as 4.3 million tonnes this year, from 6.1 million tonnes last year, and a record 7.9 million tonnes in 2001.
The maize rollover is estimated at almost 900,000 tonnes.
MGR Archive 29.7.2003
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