FranceAgriMer trimmed its forecast for French soft wheat exports this year, despite a bright start to the season for shipments, citing the boost to feed needs from drought damage to the corn crop.

The official French crop bureau lowered to 10.0m tonnes its forecast for the country’s soft wheat shipments outside the EU in 2022-23, from the initial estimate of 10.3m tonnes released in July.

France has in fact made a strong start to exports this season, as started on July 1, with shipments outside the EU soaring by 71% to 2.11m tonnes as of Monday.

Trade has been boosted in part by the downturn in competition from Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion.

Grain shipments from Ukrainian ports – at 2.7m tonnes so far under a UN-brokered agreement with Russia in late July – remain depressed by historical standards. Wheat comprises less than 620,000 tonnes of that total.

‘Share of wheat increasing’

However, FranceAgriMer stressed the need for extra wheat in animal feed, given poor expectations for the newly-started corn (maize) harvest, which the French farm ministry on Tuesday forecast at its lowest since 1990.

“Forecasts for the use of cereals for animal nutrition see the share of wheat increasing, to the detriment of maize,” FranceAgriMer, citing the “context of price competitiveness” between the two grains.

The European Commission two weeks ago highlighted the outperformance of French corn prices, thanks to the country’s poor production prospects.

The forecast for feed use of wheat was raised by 500,000 tonnes to 4.40m tonnes, narrowing to 120,000 tonnes the decline expected year on year.

French soft wheat stocks were seen ending 2022-23 at 2.36m tonnes, a marginal upgrade from the July estimate, but remaining below the 2.71m tonnes at which inventories last season.

North African appetite

France’s brisk start to 2022-23 for exports has been led by Morocco, with shipments so far on this route soaring to 845,914 tonnes, up from negligible levels at the same time last season.

Drought fuelled a 67% drop in Morocco’s own harvest this year to 3.4m tonnes, including 1.89m tonnes of wheat, according to official data.

Shipments to Algeria have jumped by 39% to 616,239 tonnes, supporting the North African country’s stockbuilding programme.

However, FranceAgriMer also reported a 73% plunge to 55,882 tonnes in shipments to the UK, which itself enjoyed an early and strong wheat harvest – if one deemed short on protein, which could support the country’s needs for harder wheats, sourced from the likes of Canada and Germany.