Grain exporters to feel more price pain as shipping rates set to rise
* U.S. wheat exporters expected to suffer most
* Panamax average earnings seen rising by October - analysts
* Black Sea grain exports set to grow, intensifying export price rout
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) - An improved outlook for global bulk shipping rates spells bad news for grain exporters as they go into the latest sales campaign, with increased freight costs squeezing profit margins and adding to price competition in leading markets.
U.S wheat exporters look to be the hardest hit as ship owners prepare to crank up rates, expecting a clamour for their vessels. The biggest hike may be to the major Middle Eastern market - giving smaller producers, situated nearer the region, a price edge.
"When it comes to the grain season ex U.S. we believe this will be a strong season and we believe the same will be the case with the season ex Black Sea," said Jens Ismar, chief executive of shipping group Western Bulk.
"This, combined with the fact that the world is still increasing its demand for raw materials, make us share the view of almost all analysts predicting a stronger market in the second half of this year."
While freight players look to mark up rates, many grain exporters expect their profits to be hurt - especially as U.S. wheat sales are increasingly challenged by cheaper supplies from western Europe, Ukraine, Russia and Black Sea countries like Romania. Continuación...