EU poised to dethrone US as world's top wheat exporter
By Nigel Hunt and Julie Ingwersen
LONDON/CHICAGO, June 18 (Reuters) - The European Union is likely to surpass the United States to become the top world wheat exporter next season as high freight rates help EU suppliers tighten their grip on nearby markets in the Middle East and expand sales in Asia.
A rise in freight costs has hurt U.S. sales to importers such as Egypt, the world's top wheat buyer, while its shipments to another buyer, Iran, have been affected by political tension.
The European Union, Ukraine and Russia now dominate many markets that previously relied on the United States.
"There is no such thing as a captive market in the international grains trade, and the U.S. has the handicap of higher ocean shipping costs to the big African and Middle Eastern buyers," a European grain trader said.
"One example is Jordan, which only 10 years ago was almost part of the U.S. domestic market. Now the U.S. hardly gets a look in against competition from cheap Black Sea supplies."
Political tensions with Iran have not helped.
"The long-term political friction between Iran and the U.S. meant Iran bought from the U.S. only when its back was against a wall. Germany, and so the EU export figure, benefited from this," one European trader said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast that U.S. wheat exports in the 2014/15 season will total 25.2 million tonnes, the smallest volume in five years. It expects the European Union to ship 28 million tonnes, its second-highest volume after a record 30 million in 2013/14. Continuación...