The imports are the latest signal that the European Union's largest
wheat producer and exporter will struggle to meet international
demand this season because a large share of its crop is failing to
live up to its traditional clients' criteria.
During the past 13 years for which Reuters has records, France has
only once imported significant amounts of Lithuanian wheat.
That was during the 2010/2011 season, which was also beset by
quality problems. The total amount imported then, at 22,600 tonnes,
was less than the single shipment of 27,500 tonnes of high
protein-content wheat which trade and port sources said was being
unloaded at the Port of Rouen on Thursday.
Traders said the recent imports of milling wheat - a high quality
grade - would be used to improve the average quality level of
volumes contracted to international clients as well as local
processors before the harvest began.
"For the moment, there is no other solution than to mix wheat to
fulfill previous contracts. We did not expect to have so much
(low-quality) feed wheat," one trader said.
As for British milling wheat, a shipment of 3,000 tonnes reached
Dunkirk earlier this week. A second, for 4,400 tonnes, was in Rouen
on Thursday, and others should follow, the sources said.
Britain, which had a reasonably good quality harvest this season, is
a more regular supplier of wheat to France, but its exports are
usually aimed at the lower quality animal feed market.
FRENCH WHEAT MISSING ALGERIA STANDARDS
While quality readings are still emerging in France, reports so far
suggest a large portion of the crop will fail to meet the
flour-making standards of its traditional markets outside the EU,
mainly its top client Algeria.
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This could lead France to ship more wheat within the bloc than on
the world market for the first time in seven years.
The main concern has been weak Hagberg falling numbers, a measure of
the flour-making quality of wheat and one that is hard to remedy
even by blending low grade with superior wheat.
Varied results in France have often been well below the 230-240
Hagberg minimum required by top client Algeria, the 250 sought by
Moroccan importers or the 200 set by the state grain buyer in Egypt,
the world's top wheat importer.
Algeria also has high standards for other milling criteria, such as
specific gravity and protein content.
"There will be all sorts of grain flows," a trader in Britain said.
"People have got contractual obligations and people have to do odd
things (to meet those obligations)."
(Additional reporting by Sarah McFarlane; writing by Sybille de La
Hamaide; editing by Andrew Callus and Keiron Henderson)
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