March 17, 2011 / 6:58 PM / in 8 years

French grain exports to Libya halted despite needs

* No shipping firm wants to go to Libya-Soufflet

* Harsh French stance could hurt grain exports in future

By Valerie Parent

PARIS, March 17 (Reuters) - A major French grain exporter said on Thursday trade with Libya had completely stopped despite the country’s need to purchase food commodities.

Loic Desselas, head of trading at Soufflet, a French grain trading company which counts Libya as a client, said that France’s harsh political stance could hurt future exports if Muammar Gaddafi stays in power.

Oil-rich Libya imports large quantities of grain.

A French political source said on Thursday France believed it could muster enough support for the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution on Libya and that military intervention could take place within hours of that. [ID:nPISHEE77C]

“I don’t know what will happen, but it is possible that this market will close (for France) for political reasons,” Desselas said at a conference organised by grain lobby France Export Cereales.

Libya’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday any foreign attack would endanger air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean basin and expose the area to both short- and long-term risks.[ID:nLDE72G27F]

“Today not a single shipping company wants to go there,” Desselas told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

“They (Libyans) want to buy, but no one wants to go there. In the short term we are in a total dead-end, the country is as if it were at war,” he added.

Prior to the crisis, an official said the country expected to import 1.3 million tonnes of wheat in 2011. [ID:nLDE71814Z]

France, which exported 144,500 tonnes of wheat in 2009-2010 to Libya, so far has exported this marketing season around 227,000 tonnes of soft wheat, according to Reuters data. <FRWHEAT/PORTS>

Desselas said Soufflet had been forced to reroute wheat and barley shipments to Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon since the unrest started. He declined to give details on volumes.

Sources at the end of last month said two consignments for a total of 17,500 tonnes of French barley were diverted from Libya to Lebanon. [ID:nN23184884] (Reporting by Valerie Parent; Editing by Muriel Boselli and Jane Baird)

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