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Egypt seeks wheat as drought slashes Russian crop

CAIRO/CHICAGO: Egypt's main government wheat buyer issued an international wheat tender on Friday amid a severe drought in the Black Sea region, which has slashed production there and sent global prices soaring this month.
Wheat traders will be eagerly awaiting results of the tender, including information on origins and prices offered, to provide a glimpse into the minds of major sellers of wheat and the world's top importer.
Egypt's General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) said it wanted to buy cargoes of 60,000 tons of optional-origin wheat for shipment August 21-31.
Wheat bids should be free-on-board, with a separate freight offer.
Nomani Nomani, vice chairman of GASC, said he was seeking cargoes of US North Pacific soft white wheat, US hard red wheat, US soft red winter wheat, and/or Canadian soft wheat.
GASC was also seeking cargoes French milling wheat, Australian standard white wheat, Australian hard wheat, German milling wheat, Argentine bread wheat, Russian milling wheat, Kazakhstan milling wheat, Romanian wheat and/or UK milling wheat (ukp or uks variety).
The worst drought in decades in the Black Sea region has slashed wheat production in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia, the region's top producer and exporter.
GASC has purchased at least one cargo of Russian wheat in each of its tenders going back to October 2009.
In its latest international purchase on July 20, GASC bought 120,000 tons of Russian wheat for shipment Aug 11-20.
Persistent speculation that Russia could curb exports helped to send global wheat prices soaring this month, despite a denial by the country that it was considering such a move.
US wheat futures posted a fresh 13-month high on Friday, closing July with the biggest monthly gains since 1959. Euronext November wheat futures rose 35 percent in July to the highest level for a lead contract since fall 2008.
Eye on offers
"I want to see how aggressively Russian wheat is offered or is not offered out in the market, and in what kind of volume. That will give us an insight into how comfortable they are," said Shawn McCambridge, analyst with Prudential Bache Commodities.
Traders said the Russian offers may be from either old-crop stocks or recently harvested supplies from southern Russia, where about a third of the crop is harvested.
French wheat could also be more competitive in the latest tender, thanks in part to GASC easing a restriction on one-port loading this week.
"We'll see how aggressive French suppliers want to be with the recent changes to the GASC terms on loading at two ports," McCambridge said.
GASC said this week that it would allow French wheat suppliers to use two ports in France to load cargoes, provided they cover freight costs, reversing a 2009 decision requiring that all cargoes load at a single port.
The one-port rule was meant to put all suppliers on equal footing, but it hampered French sales because suppliers could not use France's top grain port Rouen, which is too shallow to fully load 60,000 tons of grain.
Traders said some US hard red winter wheat may be offered at competitive prices on a free-on-board basis, but higher freight costs may again work against the world's top exporter.
Also, stringent GASC restrictions on the amount of foreign seeds could limit the number of US offers, traders said.
"To guarantee your wheat free of (ambrosia seeds) is very difficult and you're opening the door to a lot of risk. Risk that it could get rejected, or higher costs once it gets there," a US wheat trader said.

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