Moroccan importers buy South American wheat: traders

Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:02pm GMT

By Valerie Parent

PARIS (Reuters) - Private importers in Morocco bought this month between 300,000 tonnes and 400,000 tonnes of South American wheat, mostly from Argentina, to take advantage of attractive prices as the country faces a drought-hit domestic crop, European traders said.

The importers paid between $285 a tonne and $292 a tonne, including cost and freight (C&F), for the wheat for shipment in March and April, the traders said.

Between the start of its crop season on June 1, 2011 and the end of February 2012, Morocco imported 1.64 million tonnes of soft wheat, including 1 million tonnes from France, 400,000 tonnes from South America and 200,000 tonnes from the Black Sea region, traders said, citing official data.

Earlier this month South American wheat was about $20 a tonne cheaper C&F than wheat from France, usually the main supplier to Morocco, the traders said, adding this price advantage had since narrowed to about $10 a tonne.

"Given the current spread between French and South American prices, the share of South American wheat imports is going to increase," one trader said.

A cargo of 31,000 tonnes of wheat for Morocco is due to load later this month at the Argentine port of Campana, according to shipping data.

Forecasts are for Morocco's grain crop to fall by half compared to last year due to drought, and the government has suspended import duties on soft wheat, durum and barley.

Traders are expecting Morocco to extend the freeze on soft wheat duties, which currently runs until the end of April, until mid- or end-May, or start next season's imports earlier than normal, as the country tries to cover the looming shortfall in domestic production.   Continued...

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