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UK wheat prices stable, farmers focus on plantings
LONDON ,Trading on Britain's wheat market slowed this week as farmers turned their attention to sowings for next year's harvest, but prices held steady, dealers said.
London's benchmark November wheat contract was trading at around 89.75 pounds a tonne on Friday, up just 25 pence on the week but in much lower volumes compared with recent weeks.
Dealers said September feed wheat was quoted at around 90 pounds a tonne for smaller 2,500-tonne vessels compared with around 89.50 last Friday.
"I think the market is holding its own at the moment...things have turned a little quieter because of a lack of offers, and consumers seen comfortable enough in terms of cover up to the end of the year," one trader said.
Other dealers said export activity had quietened down, too, although port officials were still busy shifting grain bought over the past few weeks.
"The UK is still competitive (against French wheat) on a spot basis, but things get a little more expensive for the more forward deliveries," said Gary Sharkey, wheat director at Britain's largest grain marketing co-operative, Grainfarmers.
Sharkey estimates that up to 350,000 tonnes of British wheat was shipped out last month, up from around 90,000 in July.
Hopes are high that British wheat exports this month could reach 250,000 tonnes, Sharkey said.
Traders said the spot discount against French wheat was small at $2 or $3 a tonne depending on quality and freight, but UK origin was still attracting interest from traditional buyers like Spain.
The 2003/04 (July-June) wheat export campaign got off to an unusually strong, early start because excellent weather meant farmers could take to the land several weeks ahead of schedule.
"Traditionally, we wouldn't see this sort of volume moving out until September," said one exporter.
The UK is expected to have an export surplus of 1.7-2.3 million tonnes this season, down from around 3.4 million in 2002/03.
Traders and analysts put the total threshed this year at 13.6-14.6 million tonnes against 16 million in 2002.
But the overall quality of the UK crop has been excellent, according to quality surveys of first-cut fields.
Britain's National Farmers Union is expected to publish its first official estimate later this month or early in October, while the government's first official forecast will be released on October 29.
Traders said the UK wheat market was unlikely to see the sort of volumes that changed hands during the August rally in the next few weeks because farmers are unlikely to shift much stock for another month at least.
"Farmers will be busy on the land and probably won't start looking to sell until sometime in October," a trader said. Some dealers estimated that British growers still have at least 35 percent of grain in store that has not yet been sold.
But this year's price rise has encouraged farmers to plant more wheat for harvest next year, said traders.
"At current values, plantings for 2004 are expected to be high across the EU," David Sheppard of grain trading firm Gleadell Agriculture said in a recent market report.
Other traders suggested the swing could be as high as 10 percent on the year, with a further increase in sowings of high-quality grain, depending on rainfall in the coming weeks.
"It's still very, very dry. Some decent moisture is badly needed to get the seed beds in a good state, although it shouldn't stop many farmers from drilling early," one dealer said.
MGR Archive 6.9.2003
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