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Morocco seeks to buy 300,000 tonnes of EU wheat

Morocco's grains authority ONICL will tender mid-August to buy up to 300,000 tonnes of EU-origin soft wheat as part of a preferential tariff agreement, stepping up it purchases as it gears up for its biggest import campaign in three decades. ONICL said it would open bids for the tender on August 15. The wheat must come in lots of at least 5,000 tonnes each and a deadline for its delivery is set for December 31, 2012, ONICL added.

The tender will come two days after ONICL seals the fate of another tender for 300,000 tonnes of US-origin soft wheat, also under preferential trade agreements. Last week, ONICL also tendered for 185,000 tonnes of soft wheat from the local harvest. These are significant buys for a country whose soft wheat stocks stood at 2 million tonnes by the end of June, while much of this year's domestic harvest has yet to be collected.

A Casablanca-based private importer doubted however that the two tenders, for soft wheat of US and EU origins, would prove conclusive. "Prices in international markets are way above the reference price 3,300 dirhams per tonne ($370) if you include cost and freight and other charges such as storage costs. I think ONICL is just trying to get rid the US and EU contingents," the importer said.

"The state will have to chip in by reducing the costs for importers or millers otherwise it will end up with no bids," he added. Morocco is likely to import at least 4 million tonnes of soft wheat in the 12 months to end-May 2013, which would be the highest since 1981, according to data from the private Cereals Traders National Association (ANCL), which groups the country's private industry operators.

Unfavourable weather slashed its cereals harvest from 8.4 million tonnes in 2011 to 5.1 million tonnes this year, according to the agriculture ministry. The 5.1 million tonnes figure includes 2.74 million tonnes of soft wheat, 1.13 million tonnes of durum wheat and 1.2 million tonnes of barley, the ministry said. Last year's harvest comprised 4.17 million tonnes of soft wheat, and 1.85 million tonnes of durum wheat.

Copyright Reuters, 2012


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