UPDATE 1-EU wheat firms after Russian crop forecast cut
(Adds details, updates prices)
PARIS Aug 30 (Reuters) - European wheat prices rose on Thursday following a fresh round of cuts in forecasts for Russia's drought-hit wheat crops before government officials meet on Friday, when export curbs are likely to be discussed.
* Leading Russian grain analyst SovEcon on Thursday cut its wheat harvest forecast to 38 million tonnes from 39 million previously. The country will now have less wheat to supply domestic and export markets this season than it did in the 2010/11 crop year, when the government shocked markets with a snap decision to ban exports, it noted.
* A survey conducted by Reuters showed international grain traders and analysts expect Russia to restrict grain exports as soon as October, with punitive tax a likely option.
* Russia's deputy prime minister is due to chair a meeting on Friday morning to discuss prospects for Russia's grain harvest and possible measures relating to exports.
* Traders did not expect a decision to restrict exports to be taken this week but stressed that past experience, notably in 2010, showed that Moscow's decisions are hard to predict and that the meeting could throw up hints of further moves.
* "In the meantime, Russian wheat flows out at cheap, unbeatable prices," one trader said, adding that many operators were selling at reduced prices to move the grain as fast as they could before any export restriction could be instituted.
* Europe's benchmark wheat price, the November contract on Paris-based milling wheat futures, was 0.7 percent higher by 1615 GMT at 266.75 euros ($330) a tonne. Since the start of the week the contract has gained 2.5 percent.
* "The outcome of the Russian grain market meeting is being closely watched as any restrictions or statement about possible export restrictions could reshape the export market," one German trader said.
* The European Union this week granted export licences for 369,000 tonnes of soft wheat, taking the total since the beginning of the 2012/13 season to 1.8 million tonnes, down from 2.1 million tonnes cleared by the same stage in 2011/12.
* "Russia currently has the cheapest wheat in export markets, but even a mild statement that restrictions are possible could push more demand towards France and Germany," the German trader said.
* German prices followed the Paris market up in cautious trade ahead of the Russian meeting.
* Standard milling wheat for September delivery in Hamburg was offered for sale up 2 euros at 271 euros a tonne, with buyers at around 269 euros.
* Trade was thin while many market participants were travelling to a traders' event in Hamburg.
* Germany's wheat harvest is now finished, apart from a very few minor areas in the north after rain delayed the start, traders said. Quality is viewed as satisfactory for both milling and export, with smaller volumes of feed wheat produced than thought.
* "Planting is now gathering speed and the first impressions are that some farmers are turning noticeably from wheat to rapeseed because of the current high oilseed prices," a trader said. "But it is too early to say if this is a national trend."
* Feed wheat futures in Britain were also higher as dealers kept a close watch on harvest progress following recent heavy rains.
* November feed wheat rose 0.75 pounds or 0.4 percent to 205.50 pounds ($330) a tonne.
* Britain's wheat harvest is now 40 percent complete, while wet weather in western and northern regions is slowing progress, crop consultants ADAS said in a report on Thursday.
* Quality remained a concern with specific weights low and Hagberg falling numbers, a key measure of milling quality, beginning to decline.
* "Hagberg falling numbers are mostly within specification, but there was a drop in the average from grain harvested this week, which could indicate some deterioration of quality of crops subject to harvest delays," the report said.
* Stocks of own-grown wheat held on farms in England and Wales have fallen to the lowest level in 12 years, Britain's farm ministry said on Thursday.
* Polish prices were little changed in the past week as buyers and sellers awaited a clearer picture of the country's harvest, which suffered from a cold winter and a rainy start to the summer.
* "Almost 80 percent of Poland's total grains area has already been harvested and yields are better than expected, which will lead to a higher crop than previously estimated," a Polish trader said.
* "Wheat quality is acceptable with higher protein levels than feared. Wheat is generally reaching milling quality, therefore feed wheat supplies from farmers are thin," he added.
* New crop standard milling wheat delivered to Baltic sea ports is unchanged on the week at 1,000 zlotys (238 euros) a tonne. Internal prices offered by millers were lower at 900 to 940 zlotys a tonne.
* German trader Toepfer estimates Poland's 2012 wheat crop at 7.7 million tonnes, down from 9.3 million in 2011 but up by 0.2 million tonnes from its estimate in July.
* Another Polish trader said, "Prices did not change significantly during the last 10 days. There is still a big difference between prices offered by exporters and by the domestic feed and milling industry as the millers believe the harvest is not as bad as some people had thought after the very cold winter and wet summer, but the export outlook is good.
* "With the weakening zloty against the euro, we expect that Poland will have good exports both to the EU and elsewhere this season," he added. ($1 = 0.7982 euros) ($1 = 0.6318 British pounds) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London; editing by Jane Baird)
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